Less than two weeks ago, Georgia sports betting hopes were dead and buried.

Today? Well they may have just been resurrected in the Georgia Senate Committee on Economic Development and Tourism.

Members of the Senate committee approved a substitute of a soap box derby bill to include sports betting language, effectively reviving hopes for legalized Georgia sports betting in 2023.

Surprise sports betting movement

It’s a surprising piece of news this morning, as just 10 days ago Georgia sports betting hopes were nil after neither state chamber approved sports betting legislation during crossover day. Crossover day in the state requires at least the Senate or House to approve a bill for it be considered again in the 2023 legislative session.

Members of the Georgia Senate Committee on Economic Development and Tourism approved a substitute to HB 237, a bill that originally attempted to designate the Southeast Georgia Soap Box Derby as the official soap box derby of the state, to include sports betting language by a vote of 8-1.

The bill does not require a constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting. If approved by a simple majority in both the Senate and House, sports betting would be legal in the Peach State.

“I want to thank the Lieutenant Governor for his willingness and his leadership to allow this to come forward. The Lieutenant Governor and I came in together in the Senate and he’s been a strong advocate for sports betting for a long time, and I want to thank him for his leadership on this,” Committee Chairman Sen. Brandon Beach (R-21) said.

While the updated bill has yet to distributed, several details were provided by Sen. Derek Mallow (D-2) during the committee meeting:

  • Sports betting will be regulated and operated by the Georgia Lottery Corporation
  • Sports betting tax revenues will fund education
  • The tax rate will be set at 22% of adjusted gross revenues
  • Credit cards will not be eligible to place sports bets or fund sports betting accounts

Actually a detriment to Georgia’s sports betting chances?

While the substitute was passed favorably out of the committee, Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Mike Dugan (R-30) had harsh words for those who approved of the action to “highjack” another bill to include sports betting language.

“Whoever came up with this idea just set sports betting back five years. When you highjack a soap box derby (bill) and put sports betting on the back of it, every person that was on the fence in the state of Georgia has just now picked a side of the fence. I can’t support this. It will not pass on the floor. I think everyone knows it won’t pass on the floor, and the damage you have just done to the sports betting industry while trying this is unfathomable to me,” he said.

Dugan cast the lone vote again the substitute bill.

The original bill’s sponsor, Sen. Leesa Hagan (R-156), asked that her soap box derby language be stricken from the new substitute bill and her request was granted. It was Hagan’s first ever piece of legislation.

Previous Senate sports betting bill efforts

A previously failed Senate sports betting bill, SR 140, and its companion bill SB 172, hoped to approve Georgia sports betting through a constitutional amendment approved by state voters in November.

The potential legislation would have allowed for a minimum of six untethered online sports betting licenses at a cost of $1 million annually. It set a tiered sports betting tax rate of 25% of adjusted gross income for parlays, prop bets, and live bets, and a 20% of adjusted gross income for all other sports wagers.

The Senate voted down SR 140, a resolution seeking a constitutional amendment to approve Georgia sports betting, by a vote of 30-26. While the majority approved the resolution, it required a two-thirds majority to pass.