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Local Legislators Debate Sports Betting Legalization

Matthew Pearson
Sports betting will potentially become legalized in Georgia in the coming months.

A state legislator from Hall County recently co-sponsored an online sports betting legalization bill that is making progress in the Georgia legislature.

State Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Cornelia, stated that he co-sponsored Senate Bill 386 to provide the state authority over the gambling sector, to impose restrictions on internet gambling, and to generate revenue that would not be collected otherwise.

As a result of the increasing popularity of websites like DraftKings and FanDuel, 38 states have passed laws allowing various forms of sports betting, sparking the growth of a multibillion-dollar business.

After passing the state Senate earlier this month, SB 386—which would legalize, regulate, and tax internet sports betting in Georgia—is currently being examined by House committees. The law states that proceeds from online sports betting would go toward funding programs like Georgia Pre-K and the HOPE scholarship, among other student financial assistance initiatives.

“From all the (gambling) bills I’ve seen, this was one I could support based on the conversations I’ve had in my district. The bill would limit the gambling to online sports betting; it would not allow casinos and it would not allow horse racing.” – State Sen. Bo Hatchett, R-Cornelia

According to Hatchett, this new bill might make a difference and ensure that money “comes right back” to support Georgia’s students rather than going overseas or to other states.

Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Alto, was one of 15 members who voted against the bill. She attributed her opposition to both structural flaws in the legislation and a pledge she made to her voters to “never vote in favor of any form of gambling.”

Echols disagreed with the division of tax revenue between the state and sports betting license holder, claiming that the state ought to receive a larger amount.

“If you look at states where sports betting is legal, Georgia would be among the states with the lowest amount of proceeds.” – Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Alto

For example, Echols stated that comparable laws in New York aim to generate “two or three times the amount of revenue” for the state compared to license holders and other interested parties.

“Although I’m against it because I promised people I wouldn’t vote for it, I feel like we’re probably leaving something on the table there,” she said.

After the law cleared Georgia’s Senate last week, Sen. Clint Dixon, a Republican from Gwinnett County who supported it, described it as a step toward “responsible and regulated sports betting” in terms of revenue.

“We have prioritized responsible gambling by putting precautions in place, such as banning the use of credit cards for betting and offering resources for self-control. The fact that both parties have supported the law shows how committed we are to ensuring Georgia’s future economy and residents’ well-being.” – State Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Gwinnett

Georgians may elect to legalize online sports betting in a referendum in May or November of this year, provided that both houses agree on the bill’s language and that Governor Brian Kemp signs it during this session.

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Chaz Mullis
Chaz Mullis, Staff Editor
Big fan of movies, music, hiking, and writing.
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