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Sports betting bill clears big hurdle, could go to full vote later this week

ATLANTA — Sports betting in Georgia passed a critical hurdle Tuesday morning. State senators could be voting on legalizing sports betting as soon as Thursday.

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot learned that the Republican-sponsored bill will have to have Democratic support to get it passed.

State Sen. Clint Dixon (R-Buford) is a busy man.

Between rushing back into the senate chamber to vote, he talked to us about his bill to legalize sports betting.

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It passed a Senate committee Tuesday morning and will probably get a vote by the full Senate this week.

Unlike a similar bill that would require a Constitutional amendment, Dixon’s bill would place sports betting under the Georgia Lottery, meaning the money would go to the HOPE Scholarship and Pre-K.

“My bill, all toward education, which I’m very passionate about. These dollars that are being generated in our state, unfortunately illegally right now, would be captured and go to HOPE and Pre-K,” Dixon said.

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But many Republican Evangelicals aren’t on board with sports betting or any kind of gambling.

Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Mike Griffin said sports betting money should not go to HOPE.

“Because in 1993, there’s no way, I believe, people in the state of Georgia had any idea that sports betting would be part of the lottery,” Griffin said.

So Dixon and other Republicans know they’ll need Georgia Democrats to help get the bill over the finish line.

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Columbus Democratic state Sen. Ed Harbison supports the bill and told Elliot that he knows there will be talks between both sides.

“There’s going to have to be some kind of negotiations and horse-trading, so to speak, to get it over the finish line, if it gets there,” Harbison said.

Supports of sports betting have tried for years to get a bill passed in the General Assembly, and for years, it always falls away.

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