Poker Laws in Georgia
Important GA Notes
- Residents from GA can play legally at offshore poker sites
- iGaming is a longshot for the foreseeable future in Georgia
- Live poker is available on cruise ships
- Lottery and charitable gaming are legal forms of gambling
- Land casino expansion may happen in 2016
- 0 never
“Reviewed by Chuck Humphrey – 50 year Gaming Law Practitioner”
Poker is illegal under Georgia law because it is a game played with cards. Though no specific reference has been made to online poker in the statutes, it is understood to be legal because playing poker is legal on a Federal level. The law does mention that transmitting gambling information over the internet is illegal within the state of Georgia. However, as elsewhere in the United States, Georgia residents continue to play online poker at offshore sites.
Future Outlook of Online Poker in Georgia – Estimated date of legalization: 2020-2021
The following graph tracks our expected legislation of online poker in Georgia on a state law level. It is currently already legal on a Federal level. This graph monitors the current rise or fall of expected legalization.
Attempts last year to introduce sports betting in Georgia did not succeed, but...
Senate Bill 79, a bill that would've seen the beginning of a legislative...
Future outlook of online poker is bleak in Georgia. There have been no bills introduced in the legislature for legalization of online gambling. There is even no discussion at any forum to push ahead for such legalization. The best thing that can be said about the outlook of online poker in Georgia is that there have been no arrests made for playing poker online. In comparison, gambling raids followed by arrests is not uncommon for land poker games as reported in this article on Patch.com [A].
Current Gambling Laws in Georgia
In the Official Code of Georgia [B], gambling laws are covered under Chapter 12 of Title 16 which reads, “Offenses against public health and morals”. Article 2 covers gambling in Part 1 and bingo in Part 2. Section 16-12-20 defines a bet as “an agreement that, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value”. Insurance and contests of only skill are specifically exempted.
Under Section 16-12-21 a person commits the offense of gambling when he places a bet. This section describes different types of bets including, “Plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, or balls.” The section goes on to state that a person who commits the offense of gambling shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. An aggravated gambling offense is a felony. Under section 13-8-3 gambling contracts are void and, “money paid or property delivered upon a gambling consideration may be recovered from the winner by the loser”.
Bingo for charity is permitted. State Lottery has been permitted under Chapter 27 of Title 50.
Section 16-12-28 of the Official Code of Georgia states, “A person who knowingly communicates information as to bets, betting odds, or changes in betting odds or who knowingly installs or maintains equipment for the transmission or receipt of such information with the intent to further gambling commits the offense of communicating gambling information.”
History of Gambling in Georgia
Land Based Poker in Georgia
Georgia covers the apparent loophole of poker being a game of skill in its laws. Gambling is defined as placing a bet on an outcome even if some skill is involved, and is illegal. Only if the event is based on 100% skill then it would not be gambling. And it would be difficult to convince any court that poker is based on 100% skill.
Poker at home would be legal only if there are no stakes or prizes involved. It has to be played purely for fun. Some states that have banned poker commercially, allow home poker with stakes if no rake is taken. Georgia is not among them.
Though some forms of gambling have been allowed for charity, poker is not included.
In Georgia there is only one place to play live poker. That is on the cruise ships that host cash games and tournaments. There is a charge to be paid for boarding the cruise ships.
Gambling Laws in Georgia
Georgia is one of the most anti-gambling states in America. Land casinos, including Native American casinos, are illegal under the sections described earlier. The exception is cruise ship gambling. In 2011, the Georgia Lottery Corporation commissioned a report [C] that recommended setting up three casinos to generate $1 billion a year for the state. No action was taken on the report.
Though horse racing is permitted and is popular [D] to some extent, wagering on horse races is currently prohibited because it involves gambling. However a bill, HB 4 [E], was introduced in the House for the 2013-14 session of the general assembly but nothing came to fruition. Lawmakers in the state continue to seek to allow regulated pari-mutuel wagering on horse races.
In 2000, there was a boom of video poker machines in Georgia. Though video poker machines are gambling devices and illegal, the operators found a loophole in the state law that allowed hosts to legally pay out prizes, including cash, for video poker wins. The legislature passed a law in 2002, explicitly banning video poker machines. The operators went to court and a Superior Court judge held the law illegal. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Georgia overturned the decision and the ban went into effect. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran an article in 2011 that reported video poker machines were rampant despite being illegal.
Georgia residents can engage in casino gambling on cruise ships like the Emerald Princess Casino. Patrons have to be 21 or more to enter these cruise casinos. These cruise casinos offer the complete range of gambling activities that include slots, blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, and video poker. The ships cannot offer gambling while docked. They have to sail three miles into International waters where casino gambling is legal. One of the cruise ships operates from Savannah and the other from Historic Brunswick.
Nonprofit, tax exempt organizations as defined under section 16-12-51 of the Official Code of Georgia are allowed to legally conduct bingo games and raffles to help raise money for charity. They are required to obtain a license from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The terms and conditions of the operations are specified in the statute. People under 18 years of age can participate in raffle or bingo games as long as the prize is not more than $5 in wholesale value.
The state lottery was established in 1992 and started operating in 1993. It is conducted by the Georgia Lottery Corporation [F] with headquarters in Atlanta. Georgia residents have to be 18 or more in order to buy lottery tickets. According to the laws and regulations governing the lottery, half the money collected will have to be paid back as prizes, a third will be “used to support improvements and enhancements for educational purposes and programs” and the balance will be for meeting operational expenses. A number of games and draws are restricted for Georgia residents, but the Georgia Lottery Corporation also subscribes to the national Powerball and Mega Millions.
In 2012, Georgia became one of the first states to start selling lottery tickets online. A report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution informs that this was enabled by the Federal government stating that the Wire Act applied only to sports betting. The legislature granted approval in July 2012 and online sales commenced in November 2012.
An article in the Savannah Morning News reported that in March 2013 the Georgia legislature permitted the operation of bona fide coin operated amusement machines that did not pay out prizes in cash or kind. These machines would be under the oversight of the Georgia Lottery Corporation. Tickets sales in the 2016 fiscal year were $4.55 billion, an all-time record.
Author: Joseph Falchetti (twitter)
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