Georgia Senate Special Judiciary Committee Votes to Legalize Sports Betting

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The Georgia Senate Special Judiciary Committee has approved the legislation that aims to authorize the Georgia Lottery to manage an online sports wagering system.

Any revenue generated would benefit the state’s HOPE scholarship. The legislation is being shepherded through the Senate by Sen. Burt Jones, a Republican from Jackson, who amended House Bill 903 to advance his proposal.

Jones said allowing Georgians to legally wager on professional sports would bolster the state’s HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten programs.

“The only way to keep that program viable for years to come is to do one of two things — cut costs or find ways to generate more revenue dollars. There are statistics that show (sports betting) is a $1.5 billion industry right here in Georgia, but it’s not regulated. It’s practicing in the shadows,” Jones said.

Jones said supporters estimate sports betting could bring in between $50 million and $60 million in revenue. Under Jones’ proposal, which was originally filed as Senate Bill 403 earlier this year, sports betting companies would pay a 20% tax on their income, with almost all revenue going to the HOPE scholarship. Players would have to be over 21 to bet and be physically in Georgia to place a wager.

The legislation is backed by the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, a coalition of four professional Atlanta sports franchises — the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta United. Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said he believed sports betting was a way for fans to feel invested in the teams they support.

“In addition to creating strict regulatory requirements and safeguards for consumers, it will protect the integrity of our games and greatly enhance our engagement with fans. During this difficult time for our professional sports teams, maintaining and building our engagement and relationship with fans is absolutely critical,” Koonin said in a statement.

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