Georgia House panel supports referendum on gambling legalisation
A House panel has given its approval to legislation that would ask Georgia voters to choose whether they want to legalise sports betting and other forms of gambling in the state.
US.- Voters in Georgia would be able decide if they want to allow betting on sports and horse racing, as well casino gambling, under a proposed constitutional amendment moving forward in the state House. The House Economic Development and Tourism Committee has green lighted a pair of bills that seek to put the legalisation of betting to voters in November.
The committee voted in favor of an amended version of Senate Resolution 135, as well as Senate Bill 142, which would legalise sports betting on college and pro sports. The constitutional amendment must pass both the House and the Senate with a two-thirds majority.
Rep. Ron Stephens, a longtime proponent of expanding gambling, said consumers are already placing bets offshore and it’s time for Georgia to join the roughly 30 states that have legalised sports betting.
The House proposal would tax sports betting proceeds at 20 per cent, double the amount the Senate had previously proposed. Bettors would have to be 21, and betting on high school games would not be allowed.
The constitutional amendment says half of any proceeds from casinos and horse race betting would go for health care programmes. Of the remainder, 20 per cent would go to economic development in economically distressed parts of the state, 15 per cent to prekindergarten subsidies and 15 per cent to college tuition for people making below the median income.
Stephens wants to see proceeds from gaming used to provide more funding for college scholarships: “With this being the 30th anniversary of the lottery vote creating the HOPE Scholarship, more than 2 million Georgians have lifted themselves up through a higher education and technical college careers,” wrote the author of the amendments. “More than 1.6 million families received pre-K head starts. We will take up sports gaming in the days to come to close the gap with HOPE and pre-K.”
The amendment would also direct some sports betting licensing fees to a fund to attract sports events and some casino and horse race betting licensing fees to a fund to subsidize arts venues.
Those who oppose the proposal say state-sponsored gambling encourages addiction and other social harms. Rep Randy Nix said: “This is not something that the state of Georgia wants to its stamp of approval on,” and he added: “This is what people do that are desperate, and this state is doing extremely well.”
The state Senate passed a constitutional amendment last March calling for a statewide referendum on the legalisation of sports betting. While Senate Resolution 135 failed to reach the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives, it marked the first time a gambling bill had made it through either legislative chamber.
Professional sports teams in Atlanta have announced their support. Some of them include Atlanta United, the Braves, Falcons, and Hawks. They have said that sports betting would boost fan engagement and make sporting events more enjoyable for viewers.
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