Anyone betting on Georgia to legalize casinos or even online casinos any time soon is likely on the losing side. In fact, there is not a lot of gambling happening in Georgia at all — not legally, anyway. In recent years, Georgia lawmakers have introduced legislation to legalize casinos in the state on multiple occasions. But none of those efforts progressed very far. There are no casinos at present – commercial or tribal – and no online gambling in Georgia. And it appears that will remain the case for the near future, perhaps longer.
There is a state-run lottery that Georgians can play. Also, there is one cruise ship that docks in the East River in Brunswick, Georgia, on which a small casino operates. Otherwise, Georgia residents seeking to gamble in casinos or visit racetracks must travel to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, or elsewhere to do so.
Here is a look at how discussions about casinos and online gambling in Georgia have gone and where they may be headed in the future.
Play online slots and video poker in Georgia
Is there legal online gambling in Georgia?
No. Gambling online is not legal in Georgia. That includes more than just online casinos. There is no online horse betting, and even daily fantasy sports apps operate in a legal gray area. According to Georgia the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, a person commits the crime of gambling when they:
“Makes a bet upon the partial or final result of any game or contest or upon the performance of any participant in such game or contest;
“Makes a bet upon the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or upon the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate; or
“Plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, or balls.”
So gambling of any kind is considered a misdemeanor in Georgia. The exception to the lack of online gambling in Georgia is sweepstakes sites that offer online slots, poker, and table games.
Are online casinos legal in Georgia?
Not at all. Online casino gambling is not legal in Georgia. Georgia law is pretty clear about this, too.
However, there are online casinos that use a sweepstakes model that do accept players from Georgia. These casinos use virtual currencies instead of actual cash, thereby allowing them to operate legally in states such as Georgia where real money online gambling is prohibited. Most of these sweepstakes casinos such as Chumba Casino, LuckyLand Slots, and Funzpoints use two different virtual currencies. Players can purchase one of the currencies and play games using “play money.” But they can also receive as a bonus the second currency, which can be redeemed for cash prizes.
For example, Chumba Casino players can purchase Gold Coins and play casino games with them. Gold Coins have no monetary value, and players can only win more Gold Coins in the games. However, when purchasing Gold Coins, they receive Sweeps Coins as a bonus. They can accumulate Sweeps Coins in other ways, too, such as through site giveaways and even by writing the site directly and asking for them. Sweeps Coins can be played in casino games as well in which players can win more Sweeps Coins. They then can redeem them for cash prizes.
Can you play online poker in Georgia?
The answer here is no as well, at least when it comes to online poker rooms such as PokerStars and WSOP.com. Unlike in New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and other states where online poker is legal, there are no legal online poker rooms in Georgia. That said, there are online poker rooms that employ a sweepstakes model as well that serve Georgians. The most popular is Global Poker, where again players use a virtual currency with which to play in much the same manner as described above. Global Poker serves nearly every US state including Georgia, and therefore often runs dozens of “cash” games and large-field tournaments.
Will Georgia regulate online gambling in the future?
Again, chances are unlikely Georgia will be legalizing online gambling, at least not in the near future. Generally speaking, legislative efforts have focused more so on introducing retail casinos, although even those attempts have failed to muster much support. Georgia is one of the many states with a state lottery. The state’s lawmakers legalized the lottery in 1992, and the first tickets were sold in 1993. In fact, Georgia became one of the first states to permit online sales of lottery tickets. The Georgia Lottery began online lottery sales in late 2012, just a few months after Illinois became the first state to do so.
However, despite Georgia’s pioneering status with regard to allowing its residents to purchase lottery tickets online, the state appears in no rush to join other states that have legalized other forms of online gambling. In Georgia, legalizing any new type of gambling first requires lawmakers to approve a ballot referendum asking Georgia voters to support a change to the current gambling law. Should that happen and the vote be favorable, the General Assembly (House and Senate) would then have to approve a constitutional amendment by a two-thirds majority.
Since no gambling-related bills have managed to gain the support of both the House and Senate, the prospects for legalizing online gambling or other forms of gambling in Georgia appear dim at present. It could happen, though, that Georgia sports betting earns enough support to move forward, in which case online sports betting would certainly be the focus given the lack of casinos in the state. Legalizing online sports betting is at a standstill now. If it does happen, it could later pave the way for other types of online gambling to become legal in Georgia as well. However, don’t expect to see that sequence play out for several years at least.
Legal online gambling in Georgia vs. offshore sites
A quick search online might lead an unsuspecting Georgian to believe there are legal online gambling sites in the state. But don’t be fooled. These sites are not legal at all, but are located outside the US and do not abide by Georgia gambling law. In other states with legal online gambling, sites must follow state laws and other requirements established by those states’ regulators. Such laws and rules ensure the integrity of the games and the security of the players who play them.
Meanwhile, offshore online gambling sites inviting Georgia players to deposit money and place wagers in their games do not follow such laws or guidelines. As a result, Georgians cannot be assured of the sites’ integrity. Nor can they be certain their funds are safe on offshore sites. Should players have a dispute or suspect any sort of fraud or unfair practices when gambling at offshore sites, they have no legal recourse to pursue their claims. Gambling is already an inherently risky endeavor, but gambling on offshore sites operating illegally represents an even greater risk Georgians would be smart to avoid taking.
Who regulates gambling in Georgia?
The Georgia Lottery Corporation, better known simply as the Georgia Lottery, oversees all lottery games in the state, which are essentially the only forms of legal gambling. The Georgia Lottery was created in 1992 to oversee the lottery’s operation and the distribution of lottery-derived funds to Georgia education programs. The lottery’s district offices are located throughout the state in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Dalton, Duluth, Macon, Savannah, and Tifton.
The only other entity regulating any form of gambling in the state is the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that oversees charity bingo games and raffles. Were any other forms of casino gambling or online gambling to be legalized, the Georgia Lottery would likely regulate them. For example, recent bills proposing to legalize sports betting indicate the Georgia Lottery Corporation would act as the regulatory body.
What is the legal gambling age in Georgia?
In Georgia, the minimum age to purchase lottery tickets is 18 years old. The minimum age is 21 years old to gamble on the casino cruise ship, the Emerald Princess Casino.
Types of legal gambling in Georgia
To be honest, Georgia does not have a lot of legal gambling options so the list is a short one. Georgia does allow certain forms of charitable gaming. These include raffles and bingo (described by the law as “recreational bingo”). These games can only be run by nonprofit, tax-exempt schools, churches, and civic organizations that have licenses to offer them.
Aside from that, the only legal form of gambling in Georgia is the state-run lottery. Players can purchase lottery tickets at approximately 8,600 retail locations throughout the state. They can also play the Georgia Lottery online via a web browser or mobile device. If using the latter, the Georgia Lottery app is available for both iOS (Apple) and Android devices. The Georgia Lottery offers many different lottery games including draw games such as the multi-state Powerball and Mega Millions. The lottery also offers scratchers and online-only Diggi games, which are instant-win games similar to scratchers. In some cases, losing scratcher tickets offer opportunities to win in second-chance drawings as well.
That’s it for legal gambling in Georgia. At present casinos, sports betting, horse and dog racing, and online gambling are all prohibited by law.
Are there casinos in Georgia?
There are no casinos in Georgia, either retail or online. Not only are there no commercial casinos, but there are also no tribal casinos. That’s because there are no federally recognized Native American tribes based in the state.
There is one exception to the no-casino rule (in a way). The Emerald Princess Casino is a casino cruise ship that docks in the East River at Brunswick in the southeast corner of the state. Players can only play the games while the ship takes short trips sailing in international waters. The cruises typically last five or six hours, and they only take place Thursday through Sunday. Passengers pay $15 to board the ship, and thereafter are invited to gamble in the ship’s casino. The ship’s casino features 250 slot machines, roulette and craps tables, a dozen blackjack tables, and other games.
Is there horse betting in Georgia?
Horse racing is actually legal in Georgia, although there are no permanent racetracks in the state. The state hosts multiple racing festivals each year, including the Georgia Steeplechase and Hawkinsville Harness Festival.
But while it is legal to race horses, pari-mutuel wagering on horse races is not legal in Georgia. Attempts to legalize betting on horse races have failed, despite the support of some lawmakers and lobbying efforts by the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition.
History of gambling in Georgia
Georgia has traditionally been anti-gambling. By the start of the 20th century, most forms of gambling were illegal. It wasn’t until 1976 when charitable bingo games were allowed. The Georgia Lottery was created in 1992, and the first tickets sold in 1993. Since then, a few legislators tried and failed to advance bills legalizing casinos and/or sports betting. State Rep. Ron Stephens has been the most vocal proponent of casinos in the Georgia House.
In 2017, Stephens and state Sen. Brandon Beach introduced identical bills to add a constitutional amendment allowing two casinos, one in Atlanta and the other either in Savannah, Columbus, or Augusta. Those bills received little support, but Stephens continued proposing similar bills in subsequent years.
In one instance in 2019, a House committee approved Stephens’ resolution, though it progressed no further. Meanwhile, during that session, Beach chaired a special committee to explore pros and cons of legalizing gambling. In 2020, Stephens tried again and failed. However, by then support to legalize sports betting and/or horse racing had begun to emerge. The 2021 legislative session began with several gambling bills proposed, including new efforts to legalize casinos. Again, though, none could pass both legislative chambers.
Lawmakers will likely consider it again in early 2022, meaning the referendum could theoretically appear on the November ballot. Even if it did and voters favored it, it would still likely take another year at least for sports betting to launch in the state. It just goes to show that any form of gambling — whether online or in-person — takes a while to become law in Georgia.
Responsible Gambling in Georgia
The Georgia Lottery is at the forefront of responsible gambling efforts in the state. The lottery offers numerous tips for playing responsibly, self-assessment tools, online safeguards, and other information about getting help and support. The lottery also helps facilitate individuals seeking to join the state’s Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program. Those entering the program can exclude themselves from online or mobile lottery play for three months, six months, nine months, or one year.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities also engages in research, education, and treatment of gambling addiction. That department partners with the Georgia Collaborative Administrative Services Organization whose services include offering a toll-free Georgia Crisis and Access Line available 24/7. Individuals suffering from problem gambling or affected by friends or family members’ problem gambling can all seek and receive support.
The Georgia Council on Problem Gambling provides another resource in the state to help with gambling addiction. All of these Georgia-based entities additionally partner with several national organizations dedicated to responsible gambling. These include:
- National Council on Problem Gambling
- Gamblers Anonymous