A new bill in Georgia would legalize mobile sports betting under the state lottery.
The bill, dubbed the Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act, was introduced Thursday. Under the proposal, the state lottery would be required to issue no fewer than six licenses to “qualified applicants.” Many of the biggest betting brands would surely apply.
Georgia, home to no casinos, would implement sports betting in a similar way to neighboring Tennessee, which also lacks casinos that typically would host a retail sportsbook under legalization.
In Georgia, mobile sportsbooks would be required to pay a 16% tax on adjusted gross income, as well as a $50,000 application fee and an annual $900,000 licensing fee. In Tennessee, the tax is 20% with a $750,000 annual licensing fee.
Those figures might seem high, but online sportsbooks would save a lot of money in the state by not needing a partnership with a brick-and-mortar facility.
The Georgia bill, which has six sponsors, could allow sports wagering to commence much more quickly than occurred in Tennessee, which took nearly a year and a half between when its 2019 bill became law and when the first mobile sportsbooks hit cyberspace this past November.
“A person that holds a license or permit to engage in sports wagering issued by another jurisdiction may submit a request to the corporation for a temporary license for such person to immediately commence engagement in this state in the lottery game of sports wagering,” Georgia House Bill 86 reads.
The bill would become law immediately after passing through Gov. Brian Kemp. The state lottery would have a maximum of 90 days to process a sports betting application. With the 2021 session ending in early April, this means that Georgia could have sportsbooks by the fall.
By defining sports betting as a lottery game, the issue would not be subject to voter approval in a statewide referendum. No constitutional amendment would be required.
Lobbying efforts in Georgia
The Peach State’s sports groups have been lobbying for sports betting since 2019.
That year, the Atlanta Falcons, Hawks, Braves, and United FC formed a coalition to push for sports gambling. There have been multiple meetings and hearings since then. Last year, lawmakers were unable to advance a bill similar to the one on the table now. That bill, HB 570, didn’t get past committee. It would have capped the number of sportsbooks at 10 with a 10% tax rate.
An early 2020 poll showed that a slight majority of Georgians are in favor of legalizing sports betting.
Proponents of sports wagering in Georgia will stress the fact that some sports betting through offshore websites or local bookies is already happening and that the state should capture some of that revenue and install some consumer protections. Additionally, without legal sports betting in their own state some Georgians may head to neighboring states to wager and spend their money.
The state is anticipating as much as $60 million in annual tax revenue from sports wagering down the road. That could be on the high end, as it would require a sports betting market worth more than $370 million annually, or roughly $6 billion wagered per year.
In 2020, New Jersey books reported $398.5 million in taxable sports betting revenue.
New Jersey has about 8.9 million people, compared to Georgia’s 10.6 million, so the potential is there.
The state of Florida, which would be a major feeder market for mobile sportsbooks in Georgia, shows little sign of legalizing sports wagering over the internet in the near future. Currently, New Jersey enjoys a similar situation with neighboring New York, but that could soon be ending.