(The Center Square) – A proposal to legalize gambling under the Georgia Lottery could increase the state's revenue by nearly $ 38 million in its first fiscal year, state officials estimate.
House bill 86 would legalize online sports betting as a lottery game. It would be offered by vendors operated by Georgia Lottery Corp. (GLC) are licensed. Sellers would charge royalties and a 16% tax on their profits. The fees would be used to support the GLC and the tax revenue would be paid into the state lottery for education account.
Taking into account administrative costs and supporting programs, the Treasury Department and State Gambling Auditor estimate that net sales could grow between $ 23.8 million and $ 37.9 million in fiscal 2023, its first year of operation.
"Revenue would increase over time as additional licensees were added and sales increased," the state officials said.
With HB 86, Georgians 21 and over could bet on a wide variety of professional sports games. The proposal would allow eight licensed providers to offer sports games in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, a dozen in fiscal years 2025 and 2026, and 16 in fiscal year 2027.
State officials estimate Georgia could earn $ 14.6 million in license revenue in 2027. Game licenses alone could generate gross revenues of $ 36 million for the state in the first five years. Officials estimate that the state could generate $ 43.8 million in tax revenue by fiscal 2027.
To implement the program, the GLC, a government organization, would have to raise administrative costs to process licenses and monitor the games. GLC estimates that sports game surveillance could cost $ 1.1 million to $ 3.6 million in fiscal 2023 and $ 1.3 million to $ 3.6 million by 2027.
Ron Stephens, R-Savannah Rep, who introduced the bill, said it would also provide assistance to state sports teams that have seen a drop in game attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stephens said approximately 2.2 million Georgians have already illegally bet on sports games.
"Most people would prefer to legalize it so we can legitimize it, if you will, through the lottery, just like we do with any other lottery game," said Stephens. "That would generate gross sports revenue of $ 433 million and add $ 43 million to our HOPE scholarship."
More than 1.8 million students in Georgia benefit from Lottery's Scholarship Program, the scholarship program for outstanding students better known as HOPE. The program offers eligible students scholarships for pursuing staff and undergraduate degrees, technical certificates, and GEDs. It also offers a career scholarship that rewards students enrolled in engineering courses for jobs that fuel the state's economic growth.
Some lawmakers fear that the legalization of sports betting could lead to an increase in gambling addiction. The proposal envisages a government gambling addiction program administered by the Georgian Ministry of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disorders (GDBHDD).
GDBHDD estimates that the new program would cost nearly $ 2 million annually. GLC would fund $ 200,000 per year from gaming revenue, but GDBHDD would need a 3% increase in annual government funding to manage the program across the state.
It is not clear how far HB 86 will come in the General Assembly. The measure was approved by rules by the Committee on Economic Development and Tourism on February 3, but was thrown back by the House Rules Committee on February 10. A Senate version Senate Act 142however, was presented on Thursday in the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities, but was not placed on an agenda for discussion.