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Georgia is on the brink of a significant shift in its gambling sector. The state Senate recently passed a constitutional amendment, SR 579, that could see online sports betting appear on Georgia’s November ballot. This move has sparked a wave of anticipation and speculation across the state and beyond.

The amendment, passed with bipartisan support, proposes the establishment of a gaming commission. This body would be responsible for setting regulations and a tax rate for a licensed betting market. The tax revenue generated from this market would be allocated to pre-kindergarten programmes, problem gambling, and state sports.

In addition, the proposed law would allow the government-run Georgia Lottery Corporation to operate sports betting. This is a significant development, considering that all forms of pari-mutuel betting and are currently banned under the state constitution.

The will need the support of at least two-thirds of both chambers, as well as a majority of the public in a ballot, to become law. This means it will require backing from at least 120 of the state’s 180-strong House of Representatives.

Local officials estimate that the legalization of sports betting could generate $100m in long-term annual tax revenue for the Peach State. This potential financial boost has added fuel to the debate and increased the stakes for the upcoming vote.

The rival bill: a different approach

Interestingly, SR 579 is not the only sports betting bill to have been passed in the 2024 Georgia legislative session. Senator Clint Dixon’s, (in photo above), SB 346, passed on February 1, proposes a different approach to legalizing sports betting.

Dixon’s bill seeks to authorize sports betting as an activity covered under the state lottery laws, rather than requiring a constitutional amendment. This would establish a 20% tax on online sports betting and create a tethered system allowing sports teams, golf courses, and automobile racetracks to apply for licenses.

However, Senator Bill Cowsert, the sponsor of SR 579, has argued against this approach. He believes that a constitutional amendment is the politically appropriate route to take when making such a significant policy shift in the state. He argues that this approach gives voters the opportunity to have their say on the issue.

If politicians succeed in approving sports betting this year, Georgia will become the 39th state in the union to allow consumers to place legal bets. This potential change in the state’s gambling landscape represents a significant shift in policy and could have far-reaching implications for the future of sports betting in Georgia and beyond.

Georgia Lottery Corporation’s potential move into sports betting

The Georgia Lottery Corporation (GLC) was established in 1992 with the primary aim of raising money for education in Georgia. It operates several games of chance, offering large prizes while collecting money for the state’s education budget.

The GLC is overseen by the government of Georgia and is headquartered in Atlanta. The lottery takes in over US$1 billion yearly. By law, half of the money goes to prizes, one-third to education, and the remainder to operating and marketing the lottery. The education money funds the HOPE Scholarship, and has become a successful model for other lotteries.

The GLC operates approximately 60-65 instant games and 11 draw, or computerized, games. Instant games are scratch tickets also called “scratch-offs”. A player scratches a thin film from the ticket to see if the ticket is a winner. The prizes are smaller than other lottery games, but there are better odds.

The GLC also operates draw games such as CASH 3, CASH 4, Cash Pop, Georgia FIVE, Cash4Life, Fantasy 5, Jumbo Bucks Lotto, Mega Millions, Powerball, Quick Win, and KENO. Additionally, the Georgia Lottery offers online play with DIGGI games for players located in Georgia.

The GLC currently employs approximately 365 people state-wide, and lottery tickets are now being sold at approximately 8,400 authorized retail locations in Georgia. The GLC has eight district offices located in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Duluth, Macon, Savannah, and Tifton.

The GLC has experienced unprecedented sales and returns to education in its operation - with net sales reaching over $103 billion. Since its inception, the GLC has transferred more than $27.6 billion to the State Treasury’s Lottery for Education Account. More than 2.1 million students have been able to attend colleges through Georgia’s HOPE scholarship program; more than 2 million four-year-olds have attended Georgia’s pre-kindergarten programme.

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