Georgia Senate Approves Sports Betting Measures

The George Senate has approved two measures that could pave the way for mobile sports betting in the state. The legislation now goes to the House for consideration next week.

Jeff Mullis
Jeff Mullis
State Sen. Jeff Mullis gestures while addressing a legislative issue. The senator from North Georgia has introduced legislation to allow sports betting in the state. (Image: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

One of the measures approved in the Senate on Friday, Senate Resolution 135, would start the process for a state constitutional amendment allowing sports betting. An amendment requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and public approval in a statewide election. The resolution passed in the Senate on a 41-10 vote. The Senate has 56 members.

The other measure that passed in the Senate Friday, Senate Bill 142, would establish sports betting regulation and oversight. The bill was approved on a 34-17 vote, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Sen. Jeff Mullis (R) is the lead sponsor of both measures.

“The constitutional amendment is simply allowing the very people that you represent — the ones that vote for,  or maybe don’t vote for you — you’re allowing them to decide no or yes on sports betting,” he said.

If mobile sports betting is approved, companies providing the service would pay an annual license fee of $100,000. They also would pay a $10,000 application fee, the Journal-Constitution reported. 

Atlanta Pro Teams Offer Support

Under Sen. Mullis’ proposal, six companies would be allowed to offer mobile sports betting. Each would pay a 16 percent income tax, with tax revenue going to needs-based scholarships, rural broadband, and rural health care, according to the newspaper.

The bill would allow bettors to place wagers on professional and college sporting events, but not on college games involving George universities.

Everything else from professional ping-pong to frog jumping – provided it’s professional – can benefit from this,” Mullis said.

Four professional sports franchises have come out in support of sports betting in the state. The franchises are the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, and Atlanta United. They have formed a coalition called the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance. 

‘Just the Beginning’

Mullis acknowledged that passage in the Senate does not signal that sports betting is guaranteed to happen. Sports betting still must be approved in the House.  

“I know this process is just beginning,” he said. “It’s going to move down the road, and there are going to be many changes.”

The state House also has taken up a mobile sports betting measure, House Bill 86. This bill, by Rep. Ron Stephens (R), would not require a constitutional amendment. The bill would only need a majority vote in the House and Senate before going to the governor for his consideration.

While the state constitution prohibits legalized gambling, sports betting advocates have said that type of wagering would be a “lottery game” overseen by the Georgia Lottery Corp. The constitution already has been amended to allow a lottery. 

The Journal-Constitution’s Georgia Legislative Navigator gives HB 86 only a 22 percent chance of passage.

Bills to allow commercial casinos and horse tracks also face difficulty in winning legislative approval, according to published accounts. Both would require a constitutional amendment.

Sen. Bill Cowsert (R), who has opposed gambling, said he supports sports betting bills.  

”To many people, that’s entertainment,” he said. “And it’s almost part of our Southern culture.”

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