Georgia loves sports. But the state has never been very inviting when it comes to gambling, which is too bad for those wishing to bet on sports in Georgia. With no legal sports betting at present, Georgia sports fans aren’t able to wager on their favorite college and professional teams. That means no betting on the Georgia Bulldogs in SEC football games or the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in ACC basketball. The same goes for the state’s professional franchises the Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (NBA), and Atlanta Falcons (NFL). Those in Georgia can root their teams on, but can’t legally wager on them.
State lawmakers have tried in the past to legalize sports betting in Georgia and have even made some progress in that regard in recent years. As more and more states introduce sports betting, it could happen in Georgia as well, and sooner rather than later. Here’s an overview of the recent history and current status of sports betting in Georgia, along with some consideration of how and when legal sports betting might finally come to the Peach State.
Is sports betting legal in Georgia?
No, sports betting is not legal at present in Georgia. State law defines gambling in a few different ways, including making “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.” That includes sports betting, which like other forms of gambling, is therefore specifically prohibited by law in Georgia.
But we did say “at present.” There is movement in the state capital. Lawmakers have recently proposed bills that would legalize sports betting in the state. However, those legislative efforts have thus far all come up short.
Are there sportsbook apps in Georgia?
No. There are no sportsbook apps available for those in Georgia to place sports wagers. If sports betting were to become legal in Georgia, it is likely online sportsbooks will launch in the state. One factor increasing the likelihood of online sports betting is the fact that Georgia presently has no retail casinos. Without casinos to host retail sportsbooks, pro-sports betting lawmakers have eagerly explored the online option. Should online sports betting become legal in Georgia, expect sportsbook apps to become available for both iOS (Apple) and Android mobile devices.
When will Georgia regulate sports betting?
It’s complicated. Any changes to Georgia gambling law require lawmakers first to approve a ballot referendum asking the state’s voters to affirm they approve a change. Thus for sports betting to be legalized, a first step will be to have voters show they are in favor of doing so. Then lawmakers would have to vote to approve a constitutional amendment. Such a vote would require a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to pass.
In recent years, lawmakers have proposed various gambling-related bills, including those legalizing sports betting. The most recent came during the 2021 session, with the full Senate even passing legislation to add a sports betting referendum to the 2022 ballot.
The state Senate passed two relevant pieces of legislation. SR 135 was a resolution that proposed adding the ballot referendum asking voters whether or not they approved adding a constitutional amendment authorizing sports betting. SB 142 was a bill that would legalize sports betting should voters support it. The House had its own sports betting bill, HB 86, which gained some support before being withdrawn. Meanwhile, the House failed to vote on the legislation that passed through the Senate before the 2021 session concluded at the end of March.
It appears certain sports betting will be discussed again when the new legislative session begins in 2022. If lawmakers manage to get a referendum on sports betting onto the 2022 ballot and voters approve it, sports betting could be legalized early the following year. Regulations would then have to be established, after which operators could apply for licenses. Even if fast-tracked, that process could take several months. All of this means sports betting likely could not be legalized and regulated in Georgia before 2023 at the earliest.
Can you play DFS in Georgia?
Yes, for now. Georgia is one of several states without legislation either legalizing or prohibiting daily fantasy sports. As is the case in those other states, you can play daily fantasy sports in Georgia, with sites like DraftKings, FanDuel, and others all operating in the state. However, in 2016, the Attorney General’s office issued a letter maintaining that fantasy sports ran afoul of Georgia gambling law. That prompted lawmakers to explore the issue, and in 2017 the Georgia House passed a bill to legalize DFS. But the Senate failed to vote on the fantasy sports bill, and it was not subsequently reintroduced.
Meanwhile, DFS sites continue to operate in a legal gray area in the state to this day. There does not currently appear to be any push either to prohibit wagering on daily fantasy sports or formally legalize it.
Who will regulate Georgia sports betting?
Currently, the Georgia Lottery Corporation, or the Georgia Lottery (as it is usually called), oversees the state-run lottery. It is likely the Georgia Lottery will be called on to regulate sports betting as well, should the state legalize it. Lawmakers who have proposed sports betting bills recently have indicated in their legislation that the Georgia Lottery would act as the regulatory body overseeing sports betting. That would entail setting rules for sportsbooks, accepting applications and issuing licenses, and monitoring it going forward to ensure all licensees operate within the law and regulations.
Georgia also allows charity bingo games and raffles that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation oversees. Even so, sports betting will certainly fall under the Georgia Lottery’s purview.
How old do I have to be to bet on sports in GA?
Right now the only legal form of gambling is the state-run lottery. There are a few small exceptions, including the aforementioned charitable bingo games and raffles. But for the most part, purchasing tickets to play the Georgia Lottery is the only significant, real-money gambling allowed in the state.
The minimum age to play the Georgia Lottery is 18 years old. However, should sports betting become legal in the state, the minimum age to place a wager will undoubtedly be 21. Setting the minimum age for sports betting at 21 would follow what other states with legal sports betting have done. Sports betting legislation proposed by Georgia lawmakers has also defined a “bettor” as “twenty-one years of age or older,” indicating an intention to make 21 the minimum for sports betting.
Which online sportsbooks could launch in Georgia?
As noted, should Georgia legalize sports betting, online sportsbooks will likely be part of the process. Online sportsbooks would enable bettors to place wagers throughout the state. In fact, Georgia could follow Tennessee’s lead and legalize only online sports betting. That’s because, like Tennessee, Georgia is a state without retail casinos.
Many operators currently operating online sportsbooks in other states would be eager to launch in Georgia. Expect the following operators to explore launching in Georgia should the state make it legal to do so:
- DraftKings Sportsbook: The daily fantasy sports giant has become a top player in sports betting. The number of states in which it operates online sportsbooks reached double digits.
- FanDuel Sportsbook: DraftKings’ top DFS competitor has also become a sports betting rival with online sportsbooks in several states and plans to launch more.
- BetMGM Sportsbook: The MGM lion has long been a central symbol in the gambling industry, and its BetMGM-branded online betting products have proven popular in several states.
- Caesars Sportsbook: Has become an active player in US online sports betting over recent years. After its acquisition of William Hill, Caesars has positioned itself as a top operator in the US market.
- FOX Bet Sportsbook: Another up-and-coming online sportsbook successfully leveraging tie-ins and promotions via FOX Sports programming.
Incidentally, searching online for “legal online sportsbooks” may turn up other options in addition to these. But don’t be fooled because many of those sites are not legal in the US at all. Rather they are “offshore” sportsbooks operating outside of US law and state regulators’ rules.
Depositing money and placing wagers on these offshore sites is not recommended. Unlike with legal and regulated apps, offshore sites that accept Georgia players cannot be trusted, nor can such sites’ integrity or the security of their accounts be verified. Should bettors run into difficulties with their accounts or suspect fraud occurring on these offshore sites, they will have no legal recourse.
Do I have to be in Georgia to bet online?
Yes. No matter what, once Georgia legalizes online sports betting, bettors will need to be physically located within the state in order to place real money wagers at online sportsbooks. All states with legal and regulated sports betting enforce this requirement, as per the federal law and the Wire Act. Thus, it is not possible to place sports bets from Georgia at other states’ online sportsbooks.
Online sportsbooks use geolocation software to ensure those who place bets are indeed located within the state. If using a web browser, bettors are sometimes required to download and install plug-ins or otherwise enable geolocation. Mobile apps tend to have geolocation technology already built in. Sometimes a second app might have to be downloaded to help the site make sure of your location in the state when placing bets.
How do I deposit money into an online sportsbook account?
Online sportsbooks generally offer a number of different ways to fund your account. Some of the most commonly found depositing methods include:
- Credit/debit cards
- Prepaid cards
- Check or money order
- E-check/ACH or bank wire transfer
- Third-party payment processors such as PayPal and Skrill
Those depositing funds at online sportsbooks should keep an eye out for deposit bonuses or other relevant promotions. They should especially do this when depositing for the first time, since most sites offer welcome bonuses. By the way, online sportsbooks typically offer multiple ways to withdraw funds as well. Be aware, though, that the available depositing methods typically outnumber withdrawal methods.
Where to bet on sports in Georgia
Nowhere yet. Should Georgia legalize sports betting, there are a few different possibilities for locations where Georgians could place their wagers, all of which would require a change in Georgia law.
Lawmakers have proposed legalizing retail casinos in the state, although that effort has yet to gain significant support. Among the locations proposed for casinos are Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, and Savannah. Obviously, if casinos become legal, they could house retail sportsbooks. Pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing is not legal in Georgia, either, although there have been attempts to legalize that as well. If horse race betting became legal, racetracks could also serve as locations for sports betting. Some states have also included stadiums and arenas of professional sports leagues (we’re looking at you, Arizona and Maryland). If Georgia lawmakers go this route, there are a multitude of places that could house a retail sportsbook, including:
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium (NFL; MLS)
- State Farm Arena (NBA)
- Truist Park (MLB)
- Atlanta Motor Speedway (NASCAR)
It’s possible sports betting could become legal in Georgia as online-only, as with Tennessee sports betting, without any retail locations. But if retail sports betting does become legal, the sportsbooks would operate much like those in other states.
Bettors could place bets with tellers at windows, or visit kiosks to make their wagers and pay for them. Upon placing a wager, the bettor receives a betting slip indicating the wager and how much a winning bet pays. If the bet proves a winner, the bettor can return to the window or kiosk and redeem the slip for cash won.
What sports can I bet on in Georgia?
While speculative here, markets offered in other states provide something of a blueprint for what the Georgia online sports betting industry might look like. Across the country, in states that have launched or legalized wagering, an array of sports is available to bet on. Certainly, professional leagues in the US carry the most weight. And in states where betting on them is legal, college sports have generated interest.
It would seem almost a certainty that any sportsbook operating in Georgia would carry the four major North American pro sports: MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL. On top of that are a number of other sports that have grown in popularity in other states:
- Auto racing
- Mixed martial arts (MMA)
Even the next tier, considered more as “niche” sports, has drawn interest, such as darts, table tennis, and rugby, to name a few. Some states have even allowed eSports betting and wagering on the Academy Awards.
History of sports betting in GA
Gambling as a whole is limited in Georgia, but even so, the state has made several attempts to legalize casinos in Georgia. The same can be said of betting on sports. Many states rushed to introduce legal sports betting soon after the US Supreme Court ruled they could in 2018. Meanwhile, Georgia stayed on the sidelines initially, with lawmakers not showing any interest until their neighbor to the north, Tennessee, legalized sports betting in 2019 and launched in 2020.
In early 2020, several Georgia senators introduced a bill that would legalize online-only sports betting much as Tennessee had done. That bill failed to move out of committee. Meanwhile, in the state House, Rep. Ron Stephens sponsored a bill to legalize sports betting along with casinos and betting on horse racing. That legislation likewise failed to progress.
In 2021, lawmakers tried again. One Senate resolution proposed adding a referendum to the 2022 ballot asking Georgians to say whether or not they supported legalizing sports betting. Another Senate bill would legalize sports betting, contingent on a favorable referendum vote. The full Senate passed both pieces of legislation. However, the House failed to act before the 2021 legislative session concluded.
Sports betting legislation will likely be considered again in 2022. If passed, the referendum could still appear later in the year on the November ballot.
During this latest round of negotiating over Georgia sports betting, legislation again focused on online-only sports betting. Up to six operators could be licensed, each required to pay a $100,000 annual licensing fee. Tax revenue of 20% would go to the state. The Senate favored allowing betting on college sports, but the House did not.
All of these details will be argued over again, of course, making it hard to predict what legal sports betting in Georgia might ultimately look like. That said, the issue is certainly on the table, and as more and more states legalize sports betting, the incentive for Georgia to do so also will only increase.