February 8, 2021 - Your Georgia General Assembly is moving quickly as we are starting to see many prominent bills completing the committee review process and making their way to the House of Representatives for consideration.

One of the more notable bills that I authored was sent to the Rules Committee this week for final consideration before being sent to the House for all representatives to vote. My sports wagering initiative, House Bill 86, or the “Georgia Lottery Mobile Sports Wagering Integrity Act,” which passed out of the House Economic Development & Tourism Committee will seek to legalize and regulate sports betting in Georgia. Specifically, HB 86 would allow the Georgia Lottery Corporation to regulate sports wagering, and individuals who are 21 years of age and older would be able to place bets on specific professional and Olympic sporting events through an interactive sport wagering platform. The bill includes certain restrictions for sports betting, including prohibiting the use of credit cards, as well as prohibiting league and team insider betting.

Additionally, HB 86 would provide resources for individuals with gambling problems or addictions, enhance fan engagement and strengthen partnerships with Georgia sports teams. In fact, the Atlanta professional teams including baseball’s Braves, football’s Falcons, basketball’s Hawks and soccer’s United have all asked for it as a way to continue fan interaction during the pandemic. During the committee hearing this week, it was estimated that sports betting could generate $433 million in gross revenue, and the taxable revenue could add $43 million into the HOPE Scholarship fund. As our stadiums continue to remain empty for the time being, legalized sports betting may be one way to keep the professional sports industry, and the jobs it provides, afloat during this unprecedented time.

The other big gambling bill I introduced was H.B. 30 which would allow for a proposed amendment to the Constitution to authorize the General Assembly to provide by law for the local authorization of a limited number of licensed destination resort casinos within the state. This amendment would allow for local control as to whether citizens want such a facility in their area and allow the state to control the number of such facilities as to prevent our cities from being a Vegas-like show place disturbing our natural integrity. Further movement of this bill will happen later in this session.

We will return to the State Capitol on Monday, February 8, for Legislative Day 13. I encourage you to contact me with your input and thoughts on proposed legislation or current events that may impact our community. I am in 226-A of the State Capitol. My office phone number is (404) 656-5115 and my email is ron.stephens@house.ga.gov. I look forward to continuing this session and serving all of you.

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