Georgia Senate panel set to vote on sports betting bill next week

The Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities heard arguments on the bill Thursday, and is expected to take up the bill again next week. The Georgia Lottery would be given the responsibility for regulating and taxing wagers on athletic events, with the exception of horse racing.

group of Georgia lawmakers led by Senate Rules Committee Chair Jeff Mullis filed a bill last week that would legalize online sports betting in the state, and a committee could vote on it as soon as next week.

Mullis presented his bill to the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities Thursday, saying he wants the state to get a

piece of the online gambling action that Georgians are already spending money on and put it toward a good cause. The Georgia Lottery would be given the responsibility for regulating and taxing wagers on athletic events. Similar legislation is also filed in the state House.

“The estimate is over 2 million Georgians are doing it now, and do you know who has control of this? The bookies,” the Chickamauga Republican said, as reported by Georgia Recorder. “The people that are controlling the spread and all those aspects of wagering. If you will honor me in supporting this issue, it will be regulated by the Georgia Lottery, it will go to good causes like the Georgia HOPE Scholarship.”

Lawmakers and their legislative counsel once argued that sports betting, like casino gambling, would require a constitutional amendment approved by Georgia voters, but attorney Nicholas Green now says that because sports betting is in many ways a game of chance rather than a game of skill, it could fall under the lottery’s purview.

“When you are hazarding money on the play of somebody else, that is significantly outside of your control as to how the outcome of that game operates, and that’s that key element of chance that would allow it to be a lottery,” he said.

The bill would allow betting on almost any professional sport, with the notable exception of horse racing. Horse racing typically uses a form of betting called parimutuel betting, which is explicitly outlawed in the state constitution.

The measure was not scheduled to receive a vote Thursday, but the reaction from the senators on the committee was warm, for the most part. Marietta Republican Sen. Lindsey Tippins said he is concerned Georgians will take up sports betting and stop spending money on the Georgia Lottery games. The state gets a larger cut of the Georgia Lottery’s proceeds than the proposed 10% in the sports betting bill. “I understand full well that these are dollars that are not being taxed now, but if there’s any money being diverted, we’re going to have to do a lot more to make up what we lose,” he said.

Committee Chair Sen. Bill Cowsert, a Republican from Athens, said he expects the committee to take up the bill again next week.