Should sports betting be legal in Georgia?

ATLANTA — An alliance of Atlanta’s big league sports teams is pushing for the legalization of sports betting in Georgia, and we could see the first legislation proposed as soon as next week.

The Professional Sports Integrity Alliance is made up of the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United, the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks.

The group is lobbying lawmakers to legalize mobile sports betting. That’s wagering done on a phone, all cash, no credit.

Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay said the sports franchises wouldn’t make a dime off the legalized betting.

Instead, all the tax revenue would go to the state of Georgia. He believes the individual franchises would profit from increased fan engagement, something he believes is important in modern sports.

“With the younger fans, we need more engagement,”McKay said. “What we’ve seen from all the numbers is how much sports gambling there is going on from that age of 23 to 40, and this becomes an engagement opportunity for us.”

McKay said teams would base the betting on the European Model, where bets are made over a phone or mobile device.

Because it would not use credit cards, only cash in an account, he believes most bets would be made in the $10 to $20 range. He also said all the leagues and sports teams would take measures to ensure the integrity of the game.

On its website, the Alliance states that Georgia is already home to $1.5 billion worth of illegal gambling.

“They’re doing it now,” McKay said. “They’re doing it offshore, and they’re doing it illegally. So why wouldn’t we put some restrictions around it? Legalize it. Regulate it, and have the state make revenue off it.”

There are some House lawmakers who have said they are open to the idea of approving a constitutional amendment allowing voters to decide on legalizing gambling. But over in the Senate, lawmakers have been cool to the idea.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said on the first day of the legislative session that it was not one of his top priorities.

“I’ve not had a line of senators over the past nine months outside that office trying to take the door off the hinges to talk about gambling,” Duncan said.

While the Alliance believes lawmakers could approve the measure without a constitutional amendment, most under the Gold Dome believe it needs one, and getting one approved requires a two-thirds majority in both houses.