Georgia committee passes wagering bill with most generous RG cutout in US

Today (28 March) Georgia’s General Assembly is set to adjourn by 11.59pm EST. The Higher Education Committee passed amended versions of SR 579 and SB 386, and the Rules Committee put the package on its agenda less than 30 minutes later, but has not yet sent it to the house floor.

Should the house pass the package, it would have to go back to the senate for concurrence or to a conference committee because the bills were amended.

The issue has been sitting in the Higher Education Committee for more than a month as lawmakers rallied support and massaged the bills to find a consensus. As recently as Wednesday (27 March) the proposals were laid over due to lack of support. It was not clear until the vote was called Thursday morning that there was a compromise.

By law, both chambers must pass the constitutional amendment by a two-thirds majority. Neither party has that majority, so bipartisan support is required.

15% of tax revenue headed to PG/RG programmes

SR 579 is a constitutional amendment that would send the decision to legalise statewide mobile wagering to voters in November and SB 386 is the enabling legislation.

Together, the bills would allow for up to 16 digital platforms and operators would be taxed at 25% of adjusted gross revenue. The bills do not allow for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks but do allow for the state’s professional sports teams to partner with sportsbooks.

The committee approved an amendment to SR 579 from bill sponsor Senator Bill Cowsert that would dedicate 15% of state tax revenue to a newly created “Responsible Gaming Fund” that would support “programmes and services that seek to prevent individuals from experiencing, and provide assistance to individuals who experience, addiction or other problems related to betting or gambling”.

According to the amendment, 15% of the first $150m in tax revenue would go to problem and responsible gambling programmes. The other 85% would be earmarked into an “Educational Opportunity Fund.”

Both bills passed by voice vote, but not without some detractors. Delegates Clay Pirkle and David Knight voiced concerns about legalising, saying that if the state says it is OK, then some people might try wagering when they would otherwise have not.

Pirkles said it was “his truth” not to support the bills and Knight said he “fundamentally disagrees” with the idea to legalise statewide mobile wagering.

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