How much money has the Peach State left on the table by not embracing legal sports betting throughout Georgia? Brace yourself. The number might shock you. Georgia legal sports betting could reportedly generate millions in additional tax revenue per year.
That is a gargantuan number for a non-flagship market. It puts Georgia on par with the profits already being raked in by Virginia and Michigan. And depending on the tax rate, Georgia legal sports betting can technically be worth even more.
To what end this matters will be debatable. Georgia has skirted the opportunity to legalize sports betting on numerous occasions. And the re-election of governor Brian Kemp hurts their chances of changing course in the near future.
We'll have more on the future of sports betting in Georgia shortly. For now, the figures being thrown around absolutely matter. They are big enough to force even the most stubborn opponents of gambling to reconsider their position. But are the Georgia sports betting projections actually accurate?
Georgia Legal Sports Betting Could Clear $600 Million in Total Bets Placed Per Year
According to a recent study by PlayUSA, Georgia is in line to accept more than $600 million worth of sports betting wagers each year. The methodology they used to arrive at this number isn't totally clear. It seems to be a blend of population size and the success of the state lottery.
As the study notes: "While the state does not have sports wagering, it does have a lottery. Last week, the Georgia Lottery Corp. reported its most profitable first quarter since its start in 1993. The analysis found that Georgia, one of 15 states without legalized sports betting, could generate $600 million of revenue annually. The Empire State of the South could rival states like Michigan or Virginia if it legalized sports betting."
To be clear: This $600 million isn't pure profit. It is the revenue sportsbooks would hold after all their expenses—including the payouts of winning bets. Georgia gets a fraction of that projected $600 million in the form of a tax rate. That share ends up being their profit. For example, if Georgia assesses a 10 percent tax on sports betting revenue, this forecast would net them $60 million in additional money per year.
Not bad, eh? Believe it or not, it may also be on the lower end of what the state stands to make.
Can Georgia Sports Betting Become a Billion-Dollar Revenue Stream?
State population sizes played a role in the comparisons mentioned above. The latest census has Georgia sitting at just over 10.7 million residents. That's a hair more than Michigan (10.1 million) and noticeably more than Virginia (8.7 million). This difference alone could mean PlayUSA is undershooting Georgia sports betting revenue.
But it also goes beyond population size. Georgia just so happens to be the most appealing pro sports market of the bunch.
Virginia has collected more than $50 million in tax revenue since legalizing sports betting, according to Legal Sports Report. And that's without having a professional sports team directly in their market. Georgia, on the other hand, is home to teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS. Couple that with a population size nearly 23 percent larger than Virginia's, and they should easily exceed this comparison.
Michigan looms as the more interesting parallel. They have a similar population size and also feature pro sports teams from the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. They do not, however, have a soccer franchise to tap into. Interest in their NBA team (Detroit Pistons) also isn't nearly as high as the interest in Georgia's (Atlanta Hawks). More than that, the average household income in Georgia is appreciably higher than the average in Michigan, according to the United States National Census Bureau. This means the odds are good that Georgia proves to be a much more lucrative betting market than both Michigan and Virginia.
None of this guarantees that legal Georgia sports betting has billion-dollar-a-year potential. But if Michigan churned out more than $600 million in total sports betting revenue during their first year after its legalization, then it stands to reason Georgia's number will be even higher—and more likely to creep toward $1 billion per year over time.
If and When Will Georgia Legalize Sports Betting?
This is, quite literally, the $60-plus-million-per-year question. And the answer is complicated.
First, we should note Georgians are not without the ability to bet on sports. Plenty of sites that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks will accept wagers from anyone residing in the United States, including those who live in the Peach State. Residents also have the option to visit one of the neighboring states that has already legalized sports betting.
In Georgia, specifically, the wait for sports betting could continue to last quite a while. Though numerous polls have shown voters generally favor some form of sports betting, the sentiment toward online gambling remains split. Not only that, but since being re-elected, Brian Kemp has made it clear he intends to keep pushing back against legal sports betting because it's "unconstitutional."
This tends to be the reflexive stance of Republican incumbents. They don't want to amend state constitutions. When they do, they often try to eliminate online sports betting from the equation. And we have to imagine PlayUSA's study was accounting for Georgia online sports betting revenue in addition to on-site potential.
Where this leaves Georgia isn't totally clear. Sports betting is expected to be a subject of discussion at the next round of legislative meetings, but the issue doesn't have a groundswell of bi-partisan support. However, if money still talks, then it's only a matter of time before Georgia comes around.
Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that meets all of your sports betting needs: