Atlanta Pro Teams Band Together To Beg Georgia To Legalize Sports Betting

Posted on March 4, 2020 - Last Updated on April 16, 2020

The CEOs of Georgia’s four professional sports teams have fired a shot across Tennessee’s bow.  Moreover, the group of teams showed a previously unprecedented enthusiasm for the idea of regulated sports betting in Georgia.

This past week, the chief executive officers of the Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Falcons (NFL) and Atlanta United (MLS) argued in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed that the state has a booming illegal sports betting economy that needs to be legalized.

“The question isn’t whether Georgians are going to wager on sports,” they argued. “It’s whether they will wager in an illegal market without protections or wager in a fully regulated environment that protects consumers.”

The four CEOs, who are also presidents of their team, are:

  • Steve Koonin, Atlanta Hawks
  • Derek Schiller, Atlanta Braves
  • Rich McKay, Atlanta Falcons
  • Darren Eales, Atlanta United

The op-ed comes within a week of State Senator Burt Jones filing a bill that would legalize sports betting.

The united front from the major league teams is a stark departure from the past couple of years. As early states entertained sports betting legislation, league officials traveled around the country decrying the idea, suggesting it undermined the very integrity of the sports.

Op-ed is latest development putting pressure on Tennessee

Now that even the sports teams are on board with Georgia sports betting, the pressure on Tennessee from neighboring states considering sports betting conitnues to mount.

Arkansas: Two retail sportsbooks are live

Arkansas legalized retail sports betting in November 2018. It launched on July 1, 2019, at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. Earlier this year, Southland Casino Racing opened its sportsbook just 10 minutes from the Tennessee border and the major city of Memphis.

Mississippi: 23 casinos offer sports betting

Mississippi launched retail sports betting in August 2018. Twenty-three casinos now offer sports betting, including locations in Tunica, just 30 minutes from the Tennessee border. Additionally, the state is now considering a bill to legalize online betting.

North Carolina: Could open sportsbooks this summer

North Carolina legalized sports betting at tribal casinos in July 2019. The new law required tribes to rework existing gaming compacts with the state.

The Cherokee tribe sent a proposed amendment of their gaming compact to Gov. Roy Cooper this past October. Cooper has until April to respond. Therefore, retail sports betting could be live in the state by the summer.

The tribe has a Harrah’s location about 30 minutes from Tennessee’s eastern border.

Tennessee still dragging its legislative feet

Stand on the border between Tennessee and Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, or Georgia and you’re likely to see a landscape of contrast.

As other states build momentum, Tennessee seems to be losing it. For example, this past January, the state allowed public comment about its sports betting law.

Residents were vocal about two aspects of the law, which allows for online and mobile wagers:

  • Counting a parlay as a loss if it pushes
  • A 15% hold on annual payouts

In most sports betting settings, a parlay remains live if it pushes. Calling a push a loss is virtually unheard of.

And, the 15% hold is around twice the national average, according to a report from gaming analysts Eilers and Krejcik.

A “15% hold” means the most a sportsbook can pay out over the course of the year is 85% of all money wagered.

Eilers and Krejcik estimates this high hold percentage will cost the state $10.9 million in revenue. Also, it could push bettors to illegal markets with lower hold percentages.

Boh the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) Board and the Sports Betting Advisory Council are trying to address these issues. At the latest meeting, the Board agreed to remove the language about parlays, for example. However, the discussion around hold percentage continues.

And yet, despite the hiccups the state faces, there’s a sentiment among experts that online and mobile sports betting will launch before the 2020 NFL season.

Standing in the way of a faster launch are:

  • More meetings to discuss regulations
  • Finalization of sports betting regulations
  • Submission of gambling applications
  • 90-day deadline for regulators to respond to applications
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