Bill Directing State Lottery to Oversee Mobile Sports Betting Filed by Georgia Senator

March 7, 2020 Jessica Whitehouse

Late last week, a Georgia law maker filled a bill in the general assembly that would allow the state’s lottery to manage mobile sports betting in the state, this will see most of the proceeds going towards strengthening education.

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senate hall © sarangib

The bill offered by the state senator Burt Jones simply revises state statues to provide for the lottery game of sports wagering. It does not call for an amendment to the state constitution. In an interview last week with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the lawmaker said that Senate Bill 403 gives an opportunity to the state to generate revenue from an activity that is already taking place in the peach state. Jones was a football player at Georgia, where he joined as a walk-on and rose up the ranks to become a team captain before venturing into politics. The bill would establish the Georgia Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Commission. The seven-member panel, with representatives appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the Speaker of the House, would regulate and oversee sports betting in the state.

Jones’ sports betting bill seems similar in fashion to what Tennessee is attempting. The bill makes no mention of retail sportsbook establishments. It also does not set a cap on the number of licenses that can be awarded. The bill prohibits proposition bets on college teams and student athletes, but it does not ban wagering on in state college games. Those seeking a license would need to pay a $50,000 non-refundable fee to apply. If approved, they would then pay an annual licensing fee of $900,000. Besides the licensing fees, the state would also generate revenue by taxing the adjusted gross income of each licensee by 10 percent.

95% of the revenue generated from the sports betting will go towards the state’s lottery for education account, whereby the funding will go towards pre-kindergarten programs and school technology grants. The remaining 5 percent would be earmarked the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities for one or more grant programs that treat problem gaming or gambling disorders.

Uncertain Future of the Bill

Senate Republican leaders have expressed skepticism about the need for any form of expanded gaming in the state. Which in turn makes Jones’ bill to face an uphill climb from the start. In addition, House Republican leaders are pursuing their own strategy regarding expanded gaming. They’re seeking a constitutional amendment that would allow various forms, including horse racing, sports betting, and casinos. That proposal would need two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate. Then it would need to be ratified by public referendum.

State rep. Ron Stevens, who chairs the House Economic Development Committee, has a goal of replenishing funding for the state’s college scholarship program by pushing for the expansion of gaming. Because of the population growth Georgia’s witnessed in recent years, a scholarship program that once gave full awards to all recipients now only funds about 70 percent of college costs.

Stephens’ primary focus is on allowing a small number of resort casinos to come to the state that would pump hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, into new investments as well as create thousands of jobs tied to construction, the resorts, and spin-off developments.

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