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Florida, Georgia lawmakers focus on gaming industry

As we head into the new year, some lawmakers are putting their money on a controversial industry as a way to boost the economy.

New plans are in the works to legalize sports betting in Florida and Georgia.

Similar measures failed earlier this year.

A plan to create a Georgia gaming commission couldn’t get off the ground, and despite a deal with the Seminole tribe of Florida, a sports betting plan wasn’t approved.

Now, lawmakers are rolling the dice again.

Sports betting has been a hot topic for a number of years in the Sunshine State.

Now, Florida lawmakers are looking to wager whether it should be legalized.

According to LegalSportsReport.com, legal sports wagering in 19 states and the District of Columbia has generated $340 million in tax revenue over the past two and a half years.

“This activity is occurring in Florida today,” said State Sen. Jeff Brandes.

Brandes wants Florida to get in on the action.

Under his new proposal, the state lottery department would oversee wagering licenses, and revenue from the games, which would be taxed at 15%, would go toward Florida’s education system, but athletes, coaches, referees and those who oversee the sports industry would NOT be allowed to bet.

“This would allow a much more legitimate way to play,” said Brandes.

FSU sport management professor Dr. Jason Pappas said it could also help boost revenues for college teams, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.

“This would be another huge revenue stream that would offset some of those costs and I truly believe over the long term would actually increase probably bigger than any other revenue source that’s out there when it comes to sport,” Pappas said.

Florida’s not alone. Sports betting will also be front and center in the Georgia Capitol in the coming months.

The Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Atlanta United are throwing their support behind the practice.

Developers are looking beyond sports betting to full resort casinos.

Richard Lackey Jr., CEO of City Commercial Real Estate, said his company has listed over 5,000 acres of destination resort gaming spots in Georgia.

That includes property in Savannah, Midway and Kingsland.

Lackey said the communities would benefit, including up to 50% of the employees hired by the resort can be hired from the community.

New programs, including employee training, should be funded.

He also said property, sales, and hotel taxes would be generated for each local community.

The Georgia bill is expected to be heard in the Capitol next month.

The Florida legislative session begins in March.

The odds are generally against any gambling legislation passing in Florida.

Next year, things will be further complicated as lawmakers attempt to negotiate a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

Brandes hopes his bill can stand on its own.

“Doing it through the Lottery, we’re not giving anybody any more leverage against us in terms of withholding funds if somebody technically breaks the compact,” said Brandes.

This is the second year in a row the bill has been filed.

Last year it wasn’t heard by any committees, but there is new leadership this year deciding which bills are taken up.


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