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Georgia lawmakers discussed a sports betting bill in a Senate committee Tuesday, hours after a separate House proposal was introduced, furthering the momentum for legalization.

Tuesday’s moves are another step forward in the lengthy path for legal sports betting in Georgia, one of the industry’s main remaining targets for legalization.

The Senate bill could be voted out of committee as early as next week. There’s no timeline for action on the House bill.

The two versions have key differences in the number of permitted operators as well as tax rate. An identical bill must pass both chambers before it can pass into law, meaning lawmakers in each chamber would have to both pass the legislation and rectify any differences.

Georgia’s current legislative session is on pace to finish in April. A bill can “carry over” to the 2024 session if it fails to pass by the state’s 2023 adjournment deadline.

Georgia betting details

Critically, both bills place sports betting under the state lottery, which could expedite the launch process by more than a year.

Previous efforts to legalize sports betting would have required a voter-approved amendment to the state constitution on a future ballot. The state’s latest proposal would instead consider sportsbooks as aspects of the state lottery, which was approved by voters in 1992, and therefore not require any further ballot measures.

If the current bill passes, and faces no other legal challenges, it means legal sports betting could potentially begin as early as this year. If lawmakers had pushed for a ballot measure, legal wagering couldn’t begin until 2025 at the earliest.

Georgia is one of the few remaining states without any commercial casinos or horse tracks. Mobile sportsbooks could partner with professional sports teams or organizations to earn licenses with approval and regulations undertaken by the Georgia Lottery.

Potential market structure

A hypothetical legal Georgia sports betting market would likely have interest from nearly all major operators.

US gross gaming market share leader FanDuel, which has an office in the state, has been among the leading operators championing legal sports betting in Georgia. Other market share leaders such as DraftKings and BetMGM are also safe bets to pursue licensure under any possible structure. Caesars, which operates two retail sportsbooks at casinos in western North Carolina, the closest such gaming facilities to metro Atlanta, would also likely seek licensure.

Both the House and Senate proposals would allow for more than a dozen commercial operator partners. This structure would resemble the Virginia market, which also has mobile sports betting under the state lottery’s purview.

This is in contrast to other lottery-regulated markets including Oregon, Delaware and New Hampshire, which only allow one operator apiece.

Tennessee is the only neighboring state with mobile sports betting. North Carolina is also set to consider mobile sports betting legislation this year.

South Carolina and Alabama have both introduced mobile sports betting bills in recent legislative sessions but seem unlikely to pass any such legislation into law. Florida technically approved mobile sports betting in 2021 but the enacting compact between the government and the state’s Seminole tribe was struck down by a federal court. The ruling is under appeal.

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