Georgia, as most states in the U.S. will assert, needs novel ways to boost its domestic economy as reliance on federal assistance slowly dwindles. To that end, and based on the growing attention given to sports gambling in the country, a push has begun to bring legalized sports wagers to the Peach State. It’s a contentious, divisive subject, due to Georgia’s deep roots in religion; however, some surveys have already shown that many state residents would welcome the activity. Partially based on that support, a new bill has surfaced that would allow the Georgia State Lottery to oversee mobile sports gambling. This, according to the bill’s sponsor, would preclude the necessity of sending voters to the polls to change the state’s constitution.
Senator Burt Jones believes that existing state statutes can be rewritten to allow for “the lottery game of sports wagering.” According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, his Senate Bill 403 (SB 403) would allow Georgia to ramp up its sports gambling operations quicker, providing a mechanism to capture some of what Jones asserts to be a $1.5-billion illegal sports gambling market in the state.
Jones adds, “It’s going on currently. And so we feel like — much like the internet sales tax — that it’s just an opportunity for us to capitalize on an entity that’s already operating.”
Should SB 403 be approved as is, sportsbooks would be on the hook for a tax of 20% on their income. 15% of this would go to the state’s HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) scholarship program, and the remainder would be used to treat gambling addiction through Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Anyone wanting to place a bet would have to be at least 21 years old.
It isn’t uncommon for state lottery organizations to be chosen as the administrator of sports gambling – the practice has already been seen in a number of states, despite counterattacks by some private groups that assert that the organizations lack the necessary experience. In reality, they’re just disappointed that they are missing out on the opportunity to run the show, but having an established, government-connected entity often provides an extra layer of confidence with consumers.
SB 403 has already picked up key support, including endorsements from the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance. This group is comprised of the four major sports teams in the state – the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta United – and follows a trend found across all sports leagues that is finding more support for legalized sports gambling.
Billy Linville, who lobbies on behalf of the state’s sports organizations, agrees with Jones and asserts, “Today, Georgians are spending more than $1 billion in the illegal sports betting market. It’s now time for them to wager in a fully regulated environment that protects consumers and the integrity of games.”
State lawmakers are still debating whether or not to move forward, with the for and against camps showing a huge difference of opinion. However, as common sense should dictate to even the narrowest of minds, legalizing the activity allows the state to capture the money already being spent and puts it in a better position to help those who might have a gambling problem. Legalized sports gambling is going to come sooner or later, regardless of the opposition, and some could even say that the anti-gambling crowd is gambling and throwing away money by fighting a losing battle.