A Georgia sports betting bill package has seen further changes proposed by the state’s House Higher Education Committee

As of 25 March, the committee still lacks consensus on how tax revenue spending might look. It is likely that the committee will vote on proposed tax increases on Wednesday, March 27.

The changes would see taxes jump from 20% to 25%, as well as eliminating promotional deductions for operators, and changing where Georgia sports betting funding is directed.

However, several sources aren’t hopeful of the online gambling package passing through the general assembly. It has just three legislative days left to do so.

House sponsor Marcus Wiedower stated he would give committee members updated language, including the proposed changes, before the next meeting.

Earlier versions of these proposals have already been approved by the Senate. Senate sponsor Bill Cowsert said on Monday his desire for House approval in order for bills to be sent to the conference committee.

The state’s general assembly will adjourn on Thursday, March 28. This means lawmakers only have three days to get bills through the House and returned to the Senate.

Georgia Sports Betting Bill Package Key Issues

The package of bills in discussion include SR 579 and SB 386. The former is a constitutional amendment that would give voters the decision on legalization.

SB 386 meanwhile is the enabling legislation, which would make online sports betting legal, involving the state’s professional sports teams.

Last week, it became clear in a hearing on the constitutional amendment that lawmakers were yet to agree on the makeup of legal sports betting in Georgia.

The hour-long discussion on Monday focused heavily on the distribution of online sports betting funds. At present, tax dollars will be diverted to the state’s HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) merit-based scholarship programme.

But there were calls for the funds to be directed towards “fully funding” Georgia’s pre-K programme, including school lunches and needs-based scholarships.

According to Republican Cowsert, the bill’s current wording allows the “budget to decide” where funds will be directed.

He said: “This is the third version. And there has been a different formula on where the money is spent.”

Cowsert added that support from the democrats was needed for the bill to pass. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority, something neither party has alone.

The Republicans tried in 2021, taking a sports betting bill to the House floor before the democrats pulled their support. That was due to a controversial voting-rights bill, with no sports betting legislation making it this far since.

Responsible Gambling Discussed

Caroline York was the only member of the public invited to speak at the discussions. Caroline’s son is recovering from gambling addiction, which he became involved in via sports betting in North Carolina and Colorado.

Digital sports betting went live in North Carolina two weeks ago, with Mrs York encouraging committee members to vote against the bills in Georgia.

Earlier in the package’s lifespan, the committee were encouraged towards similar action by religious groups.

Bill Cowsert meanwhile asserted that while funds could be made available for responsible and problem gambling, the bill does not currently have funds earmarked for that purpose.

Another question highlighted was wether daily fantasy sports would be regulated. A bill focused on this failed in the General Assembly on March 1.

Since the first sports wagering hearing took place in the House last year, lawmakers have discussed adding fantasy sports to the bills, but this is yet to happen.