Until 2015, there was also the Tradewinds casino cruise out of Savannah, but after the state revoked the boat’s inspection certificates, the operation disappeared for good. Even its website is for sale.
The simple truth is that Georgia has some of the strictest and most absolute laws against gambling in the United States. Obviously, these laws extend to casinos, poker, and sports betting. There’s even a prohibition on horse racing and dog racing – which is something of a rarity, even in prohibitive states. Of course, like most states with strict anti-gambling laws, Georgia offers its residents a state lottery option. This just never makes any sense because gambling is gambling.
However, hope remains in the Peach State. The 2017 state legislative session saw the introduction of a bill to bring two casinos to Georgia – one in Atlanta and one in Savannah, Columbus, or Augusta. The bill went nowhere and died in February.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Brandon Beach and Rep. Ron Stephens, is such a delicate issue that the word “casino” isn’t even in the bill. Instead, the proposal calls for the establishment of two “destination resorts.” One resort (the Atlanta location) would require a $2 billion-dollar investment. The other resort would only cost a mere $450 million.
As far-fetched as it might seem, there are also reports that Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, who has been staunchly opposed to gambling in the past, is now wavering on his position. He has been quoted as saying that he wants to “keep the conversation going” regarding gambling in Georgia. Of course, he also wants gambling to somehow be kept from cannibalizing the state’s lottery proceeds. He also wants casino operators to pay 24-35 percent of gross revenues for education. (This may be a poison pill provision, but for someone who’s never wanted to discuss gambling before, it’s progress.)
So, it’s possible Georgians will have some gambling options within their state in the near future. For right now, Georgians are also aided by the state’s proximity to Florida and Mississippi, which can offer casinos in decent driving distance. Below is the information for Emerald Princess and the four closest casinos to Georgia’s state lines.
Land-based Slots Options
|Property||Location||Number of Slots|
|Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort||Cherokee, NC||3,280|
|Harrah’s Cherokee Valley Casino Resort||Murphy, NC||1,000|
|Emerald Princess Casino (cruise)||Brunswick, GA||220|
|Wind Creek Wetumpka||Wetumpka, AL||unknown|
|Big M Casino (cruise)||Little River, SC||unknown|
Online gambling options
As can be expected in a state with stringent land-based gambling laws, Georgia does not have legal online gambling.
However, due to the relative recency of online gambling’s arrival on the scene, there is no specific law banning it either. So, Georgia residents can find options in out-of-state (and probably out-of-country) sites. However, they shouldn’t expect open arms and welcome within the power structure of the state.
Social casino site options
Social casino sites are likely the best option for Georgians to pursue their desire to gamble in peace. At present, the big apps – Zynga, Slotomania, Big Fish, and Double Down Casino – are all available via Facebook and the various app stores.
According to the most recent available data, Double Down Casino is the most-used site that featured slot machine play to its patrons. A whopping 6.1 million users a month visited Double Down two years ago, and those numbers have likely gone up since. Double Down offers over 60 different games to site visitors, all for free. For fans of table games, Double Down also has video poker, blackjack, roulette, bingo, and poker available.
Georgians can also make use of MyVegas, MGM’s free comps site. Though they will have to travel to redeem any of their loyalty points, it is still an attractive option. Ultimately, Georgians maintain the same options as everyone else. The shame of it is that these options are, as of right now, the best it gets in Georgia for gambling. (At least until the legislature makes a move.)
Emerald Princess Casino
Emerald Princess Casino is a five-night-per-week casino cruise that docks at Brunswick, Georgia.
It is the only option for gambling within state lines in Georgia. The boat itself is a 200-foot vessel with four decks. There are two for gaming, one for dining, and an observation deck. Each night, the boat sails into international waters to allow patrons to gamble beyond the reach of Georgia state law.
Within the two gambling decks, the cruise offers 200 slot machines, 12 blackjack tables, eight poker tables, two roulette wheels, and a craps table. Players pay a $10 entry fee, and cruises last for five-hour segments. The minimum age for entry is 18, and patrons must show a photo ID to enter. The cruise is operated by Golden Isles Cruise Lines, whose sole holding is this cruise. Reviews for the cruise are fair to good.
And that’s it, really. The truly best options for gamblers in Georgia are either the two Harrah’s Cherokee casinos in North Carolina (for northern Georgia) or Florida’s casinos in the Panhandle or Jacksonville (for southern Georgia).
Georgians in the western part of the state can also drive to tribal casinos in Alabama. The best bet for Georgia gamblers right now is to lobby their state representatives and senators to pass the bill before the legislature.The bill would put a casino in Atlanta (likely near Hartsfield International Airport) and another one in one of the other cities.
State legal environment
|Permitted/Offered?||Notes & Restrictions|
|Land-Based Gambling||No||Bill in state legislature would permit two casinos|
|Lottery||Yes||State lottery and Powerball multi-state lottery available|
|Charitable or House-Based Gambling||Yes||Only charitable raffles are permitted – no bingo or pull tabs|
|Minimum Gambling Age||18 for lottery and the one casino cruise|