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Proposed Georgia Sports Betting Bill Sidesteps Voter Approval

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A new bill seeking to legalize sports betting in Georgia has been introduced to the state legislature.

The bill, SB386, is backed by several legislators in the House, including Sen. Billy Hickman. It suggests placing sports betting within the lottery's jurisdiction and amending the current Georgia Lottery for Education Act to cover sports betting.

The proposed bill excludes a voter referendum, as the lawmakers sponsoring it argue that it's an amendment rather than an expansion of the current gaming regulations. The bill, if implemented, would see the Georgia Lottery become the regulatory authority for sports betting. The bill mandates the regulator to permit up to 16 online sportsbook licenses in the state.

Georgia's New Sports Betting Licensing System

From the permitted 16, five licenses would be allocated to professional teams in Georgia, from the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, and MLS. Additionally, four licenses would be reserved for golf entities and NASCAR tracks.

The remaining nine licenses will be allocated at the discretion of the lottery through an application process. Prospective applicants must submit a $100,000 application fee, and if granted a license, they are required to pay an annual fee of $1 million. Those interested in obtaining a license have a 60-day window to express their interest following the passage of the law.

The bill marks January 31 2025, as the deadline for its proposed measures to be implemented in the state. SB386 enjoys support from a bipartisan array of co-sponsors. But it isn’t the first bill Sen. Hickman will file regarding the legalization of sports betting.

Last year, he introduced a similar bill that included provisions for establishing legal parimutuel horse racing tracks in the state. The horse-related aspect faced opposition from animal rights advocates. However, the bill managed to advance to the Senate floor before encountering a halt in progress.

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