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Georgia Nearing Sports Betting Legalization

It appears that online sports betting is coming to Georgia soon; at least, that is what lawmakers in the state hope. Both the Georgia House and Senate have been working on legislation over the past few months, and a final decision is expected by the end of the month.

The Georgia Senate recently voted in favor of a pair of sports betting bills, pushing them both to the House of Representatives for consideration. There is optimism that both bills will pass through that part of the legislature, but only one technically needs to be approved.

The first bill, SR 135, is the most important of the two bills, as it would create a statewide referendum to be placed on the ballots in November of 2022. A new constitutional amendment is required to legalize online sports betting, and that would require final approval from the voters in the state.

This bill also requires a two-thirds vote to pass through the House, and that could make the final decision very tight. Last week the Senate approved the amendment by a 41-10 vote, but that is also where the bill originated.

Senate Bill 142 is filled with language and rules that would govern the new sports betting industry should it be put in place. This bill could be changed or amended over the coming months by either the House or the Senate.

The Georgia state legislature is set to adjourn for the season on April 2, so lawmakers hope to get something done by that deadline. Debates have taken place for weeks, and both bills are finally at a point where they need a final resolution.

Professional sports teams in Georgia have supported both measures in 2021, and lawmakers are beginning to feel more of the pressure. Georgia is looking for new revenue sources, and there are few better than legalizing betting on sports.

Still Details to Be Worked Out

There are still plenty of final details to be worked out, and that could keep Senate Bill 142 from passing through the House. One of the biggest differences comes from the discussion about what to do with college athletic events.

The House Committee for Economic Development & Tourism did not allow betting on any college sports, which would limit the amount of growth that comes from sports betting. SB 142 does allow for betting on college events but prohibits those games which feature in-state teams.

The issue of whether or not to allow betting on collegiate sporting events has become a major debate throughout the United States. Most markets do allow for betting on some college games, but restrictions are common as well.

Both parts of the legislature favor online betting, but the House wants that to be the only form of betting offered. The Georgia Senate has explored setting up betting kiosks as specific locations, which would technically qualify as in-person betting.

None of these details will matter unless the House approves a constitutional amendment and voters also approve the proposed amendment in 2022.

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