Now that we're firmly into the 2023 calendar year, legislative sessions throughout the United States are beginning to get underway. And after months of wondering whether the Georgia legislative meetings would address sports betting at all, we now have our answer: Lawmakers are preparing to re-introduce another Georgia sports betting bill sometime during these sessions.
Not surprisingly, the details of this bill remain uncertain. The issue of sports betting in Georgia has been a widely contested and divisive topic over the years, so those who wish to push it through are taking great pains to ensure they don't have a repeat of last year. That's when it looked like Georgia sports betting had real traction. But then it fell flat in the House of Representatives and Senate.
This year's legal sports betting bill is bound to look different compared to 2022. Some are even bracing for fundamental changes to its approach. But while the structure of the Georgia legal sports betting bill might look dramatically different, will the outcome follow suit? And what happens if it doesn't?
Let's dive into the details.
2023 Georgia Sports Betting Bill Rumored to Include Focus on Educational Tax Benefits
Every state's push for sports betting ends up focusing on two or three sticking points. These are the topics that will be most debated and discussed, and they are chosen carefully. Sports betting, after all, remains a bi-partisan issue. No state is ever going to sway everyone. Instead of attempting the impossible, they try to single out a handful of issues that can potentially swing undecided House and Senate members in the bill's favor.
In Georgia's case, this has meant shining a light on the tax revenue they stand to generate. More specifically, supporters are trying to curry favor by allocating a certain share of the profits toward Georgia's educational system.
As detailed by 11Alive.com, significant proceeds from Georgia sports betting would be earmarked for the Hope Scholarship Fund. And according to the Hope Scholarship's website, this is a grant that is "available to Georgia residents who have demonstrated academic achievement," and the "scholarship provides money to assist students with a portion of the tuition cost at a HOPE Scholarship eligible college or university."
It isn't immediately clear what percentage of Georgia sports betting revenue would be funneled to the Hope Scholarship or the state's educational system in general. The belief is it will be substantial. Georgia has really harped on their educational system's shortcomings over the past decade, attempting to grapple with the inaccessibility of higher education as well as poor metric scores across the state. Committing serious money to overhauling scholarship programs would seemingly help pique the attention of officials who are on the fence.
Georgia is Using Educational Reform to Increase Odds of Legal Online Sports Betting
Granted, we can't be sure how aggressively this new sports betting bill contributes to educational reform. But a sizable approach feels necessary when you start to dig deeper.
This latest proposal also seeks to legalize online sports betting Georgia rather than just on-site wagering. Previous iterations of the state's sports betting bills considered legalizing only in-person forms of gambling. This was done in service of placating House and Senate members who worried that too much revenue would be leaving the state if online retailers were allowed to operate inside state lines.
However, the attitude toward this matter started to shift after the 2022 elections.
A handful of new faces joined the House, and many of them have noted that Georgia is already losing a ton of online sports betting revenue. They're not wrong, either. Plenty of reputable bookmakers will accept wagers from Georgians, including sites that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks. Also, nearly 80 percent of all legal sports bets placed in the United States during 2022 were processed by an online sportsbook. Green lighting online betting in Georgia is simply a nod to the industry's shifting business model.
There is Still Plenty of Opposition That Threatens Legal Georgia Sports Betting
Despite the multiple attempts to assuage as many concerns as possible, Georgia sports betting enters legislative meetings facing plenty of opposition. This counter-stance is almost uniform; everyone against the legalization of sports has mostly focused on the risks associated with gambling addiction.
For what it's worth, every state needs to reconcile the same issue. Most places with legal sports betting allocate some of the revenue to programs that can treat and combat it. Georgia's sports betting bill would likely do the same. But it might take a larger gesture to win over the not-insignificant portion of opponents.
State Representative Ron Stephens believes this can be done through more expansive rules and regulations, and he also rejects the notion that legal sports betting in Georgia is somehow riskier than other forms of gaming.“It's nothing more than another lottery game," Stephens told 11Alvie.com recently. "You know, when you walk into a convenience store and you and you play a game, it is entertainment for folks. Let's tax it, let's regulate it, and included in the bill, we have some resources for those compulsive gamblers. We had built into that mechanism that people could, if they so choose, set limits on what they could do."
Will all this be enough to get Georgia sports betting legalized in 2023? Sentiment still seems split. But we're a few short months, if not weeks, away from having a final answer.
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