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Atlanta Pro Teams Get Behind Sports Betting In Georgia

All four of the major professional sports teams in Atlanta are in favor of bringing sports betting to Georgia.

Presidents of MLB’s Atlanta Braves, the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, and MLS’s Atlanta United came together and formed the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance. The group has sent a letter to state lawmakers asking them to legalize online and mobile sports betting.

“Georgia is the 12th largest state for illegal wagering,” the franchise presidents proclaimed in the letter. “It is not going away. That is why we must ensure the industry is above-board and transparent.”

Atlanta Braves president and CEO Derek Schiller said this is the only time the franchises have come together on an issue of policy.

“We felt it was important that we formed this alliance so that we could advise the Legislature if they’re going to consider drafting legislation,” Schiller said to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The goal is ensuring that this activity – that is happening already – gets regulated in the right way and for us, most importantly, that we ensure that the integrity of the sport is preserved.”

The state of Georgia had numerous unsuccessful attempts to move forward with sports betting through a constitutional amendment, which requires two-thirds support in the Legislature and a majority of voters in the state. In fact, the coalition claims sports betting could be legalized through legislation that will require a lower level of support.

Billy Linville, a lobbyist who represents the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance, said those teams would not stand to see any revenue from sports betting, but that allowing sports betting would continue to inspire fans to tune in and see how the bets take shape. In turn, that would raise viewership and interest in these games.

“The question isn’t if Georgians are going to bet on sports,” Linville said. “It’s whether they’ll wager in an illegal market or bet in a fully regulated environment that protects consumers and integrity of games.”

There is plenty of optimism surrounding sports betting in The Peach State. The Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance projects wagering on sports to be worth about $50 million in gross revenue for the state.

Opposing View

As always, there are folks that are always bound to be opposed to the masses. Virginia Galloway, a lobbyist with Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition, voiced her displeasure with the Atlanta teams pushing for sports betting.

“It’s sad that these great American pastimes want to bring in the predatory gambling business to take advantage of their fans,” she said. “Didn’t Pete Rose get thrown out of baseball for gambling? But now, for the sake of more revenue, these teams are ready to drop their pants – and hardworking Georgians will be on the hook for the havoc it wreaks, both socially and economically.”

Greg Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media (owners of the Braves), called sports betting a moneymaking source for states and teams.

“I do think it’s both somewhat of a revenue opportunity (for sports leagues), but perhaps even more of a fan-engagement opportunity, which will just strengthen baseball,” said Maffei.

Supporters in Georgia were excited by a recent call from Governor Brian Kemp to cut state spending. Many believe 2020 is the year Georgia will get behind sports betting, in hopes that it increases state revenue.

Not to mention, sports betting would bring thousands of jobs to the state and put hundreds of millions of dollars into the Georgia Lottery-funded HOPE scholarship.

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