The Jolt: Odds improving for sports betting in Georgia

092720 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley catches a long pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to setup a touchdown on the Falcons' first drive and first offensive play of the game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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092720 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley catches a long pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to setup a touchdown on the Falcons' first drive and first offensive play of the game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Bulldog boom, budget soon, voting bills loom

Legislation to allow online sports betting has already sailed through a state House vote. Now a tandem effort to expand gambling without a constitutional amendment is pending in the Senate.

Late Tuesday, a bipartisan group of Senate movers-and-shakers introduced a sports-betting measure. Among the names on the bill: Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller; Jeff Mullis, the chair of the powerful Rules Committee; and two of the top Democrats in the chamber: Sens. Harold Jones of Augusta and Elena Parent of Atlanta.

Gambling supporters have perennially pushed the Legislature to allow casinos or horse racing. But a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court ruling opened an opportunity for states to legalize sports betting, clearing the way for 20 or so states to embrace the idea.

Unlike casinos and horse racing, sports betting would not require a major construction investment on the front end.

The initiatives are backed by the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, a pact between Atlanta’s four professional franchises — the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta United.

And powerful Republicans, including House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, have signaled some level of support for sports betting legislation.

Our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu has more:

“The Senate differs from the bill that emerged from the House in how much money the state would collect in taxes. The Senate bill calls for sports betting companies to pay a 10% tax on their income to the state. House Bill 86, as passed last week, implements a 14% tax. And that was a decrease from the 16% that was initially in the bill and amended in committee.

“Still, it’s unclear if the state can expand the services offered by the Georgia Lottery without amending the state’s Constitution and putting the question before the voters.

“House legal staff in 2019 said that a referendum would be needed, which would require two-thirds of each chamber to approve the measure. Now, sports betting proponents say they’ve been told the change can be made through legislation that only needs the support of a majority of the lawmakers.”

Stay tuned.

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Under the Gold Dome (Legislative Day 15):

  • 8:00 am: Committees begin meeting;
  • 10:00 am: The House convenes;
  • 10:00 am: The Senate gavels in;
  • 1:30 pm: Gov. Kemp, Lt. Gov. Duncan, Speaker David Ralston and House Approps Chair Terry England provide state budget briefing.

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Voting bill on the move: HB 270, a bill to move up the deadline for voters to request absentee ballots, advanced out of the House Special Committee on Election Integrity for the second time Tuesday.

Mark Niesse has all the details of the bill, but the back-and-forth for one of the more technical bills this year is a just preview of what’s to come when more sweeping voting legislation comes up for consideration later this session.

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An EGOT is the rare club of artists who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards. Stacey Abrams has a rare chance of joining an even more exclusive community.

Last week, word leaked out that she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work on advancing voting rights. Then last night came the news that the Academy Awards put her documentary, “All In,” on its short list for a prize.

It’s a tall order to win either, let alone both. But if so, what should the honor be called? The O-No?

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Tuesday’s special election for state House District 90 will be decided in a runoff, Maya T. Prahbu reports.

Stan Watson, a former DeKalb County commissioner, and Angela Moore, a public relations specialist and 2010 candidate for secretary of state, will face off on March 9.

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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s student stalking and embrace of wild conspiracy theories made her a problem for the GOP, a target for Democrats and an easy punchline for comedians, AJC columnist Bill Torpy writes.

“She’s everywhere in the Big Time media, which is where late-night TV hosts and their writing crews fish for material. Greene, who Jimmy Kimmel called the GOP’s “screwiest, Q-iest member,” has arrived just in time for them.

“Part of it is that Trump dropped off the radar. I think a lot of us had an outrage hole in our hearts that was empty,” said Rob Kutner, an Atlanta native who wrote for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and later for Conan O’Brien. “Outrage is the rocket fuel for political comedy.”

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The state House passed HB 112 Tuesday 99 to 68. The bill would extend immunity for businesses if employees or customers contract COVID-19 on site. Georgia businesses already have this immunity. HB 112 would extend legal protections for one more year.

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The state Senate passed HB 80, the amended mid-year budget, 52 to 0, with increases to education and public health spending approved earlier by Sen. Blake Tillery’s Appropriations Committee. The bill now goes back to the House.

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State Senator Jeff Mullis filed SB 140 Tuesday, which would place a monument to Zell Miller at the State Capitol.

Miller and his Young Harris twang were practically omnipresent in the building during his day, when he served in nearly every capacity possible at the Capitol. After serving as mayor of Young Harris, Miller went on to be a state senator, a top staffer to Gov. Lester Maddox, four-term Lieutenant Governor, two-term Governor, and finally a United States Senator in Washington.

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Around the state:

  • Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools announced Monday they will finally return to in-person learning after nearly a year, reports the Savannah Morning News. Children whose families chose the schools’ in-person option will head back to the classrooms in two phases over the next two weeks.
  • Bulldog Boom: Applications to the University of Georgia jumped 40% for the fall 2021 semester, says the Red & Black. Officials say a switch to the Common Application and making test scores optional are the most likely reason even more kids applied to go to Bulldog Heaven.
  • Bad news for Cobb early birds: The Cobb County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to prohibit the use of lawnmowers, leaf blowers or chainsaws before 7:00 am, reports the Marietta Daily Journal.