Are There Any Legal Forms of Gambling in Georgia?
As things stand, there are vanishingly few forms of legalized gambling in Georgia. The only ways you can legally gamble here are as follows:
- Type | Legalized
- Georgia Lottery | 1993
- Charitable games including raffles and bingo | 1976
- Social casinos | Since 2015
The list of forms of gambling that are illegal here is much more comprehensive:
- Type | Potential legalization
- Retail casinos | Not imminent
- Online casinos | Not imminent
- Sports betting | Late 2023 at the earliest
- Horse racing | Late 2023 at the earliest
- Online poker | Not imminent
History Of Gambling In Georgia
Georgia's long-standing official hostility to all forms of gambling was established as long ago as 1878 when the state banned the sale of lottery tickets - even though the activity was popular in neighboring states.
So when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was overturned by the US Supreme Court in 2018, it was no surprise that Georgia did not make immediate moves in the direction of legalizing online gambling.
However, when neighboring states began making moves to legalize the activity, the first gambling bills began to appear before lawmakers. There were efforts in 2020 and 2021 to change the law, and a particularly strong push in 2022 - but all were in vain.
For the fourth year running, bills were introduced early in 2023 and it remains to be seen whether or not either or both of the bills - SB57 and HB380 - will be successful.
Casinos in Georgia
One major obstacle to the cause of legal online casino gambling in Georgia is that there are currently no Indian casinos or commercial casino resorts in the state. If retail casino gambling in Georgia is ever legalized, there will be a delay to the launch while premises were built. This also means that legalized sports betting would have to be licensed in partnership with the state lottery rather than land-based casinos.
To put it simply, there are no Georgia casino locations. The only option available to casino gambling enthusiasts is the casino cruise ship, the Emerald Princess. This is not a destination like those you find in other states, on a riverboat that never leaves the dock. The Emerald Princess sails away from Brunswick until it is officially out of Georgia and in international waters - only then can the fun begin.
Are There Cruise Ship or Riverboat Casinos in Georgia?
The only casino gambling option for Georgia residents or visitors to Peach State is the Emerald Princess. This is a casino cruise ship that sets sail from Brunswick - and only when it reaches international waters may passengers on board play on its slot machines and table games.
Does the Emerald Princess Casino Have a Hotel?
There is no onboard accommodation on the Emerald Princess. However, there are several hotels dotted around the Golden Isles that have close relationships with the sole Georgia casino boat. Establishments in Brunswick, and on Jekyll Island and St Simons Island, offer a "Stay 'n' Play" package that offers discounted rates; also, if you book one of these packages, your next cruise on the Emerald Princess is free.
Cruise Ship Gambling vs. Georgia Online Gambling
For Georgia residents determined to enjoy a taste of casino gambling, the prospect of a night at sea on the Emerald Princess may be an attractive proposition. However, the need to sail to international waters before being allowed to play casino games hardly compares with the convenience of being able to play with an online casino in Georgia.
The quality of the online casinos available in the states where they are legal indicates that such brands would be enormously popular if they ever had the chance to offer their services in the Peach State.
Georgia Gambling Laws and Regulatory Organizations
The current legal position with regard to gambling in Georgia is incredibly simple. Any form of gambling is forbidden under state law, with the exception of the state-run lottery. The only body authorized to sell lottery tickets is the Georgia Lottery Corporation.
This status, allied with the fact that there are no land-based Georgia casinos, means the corporation will be in a powerful position if any form of online gambling is legalized. It will almost certainly be the body in charge of licensing and regulating any legal online casino or sports betting market in the state.
How Many Casino Games Does the Emerald Princess Casino Have?
If you step on board the Emerald Princess, the selection of casino games covers most of the popular activities you should expect to find at any land-based or online establishment. Across the casino's two gaming floors, there are more than 250 slot machines and a couple of dozen table games. Those tables include roulette, blackjack, craps, bingo, and several poker games.
Can I Gamble Online in Georgia?
The options for online gambling enthusiasts in Georgia are currently extremely limited. Online wagering, Georgia sports betting apps, and casinos are still forbidden by state law, and the only option for those who want to visit a casino in Georgia is the Emerald Princess casino cruise ship.
There are hopes that the landscape might change radically in the near future if the repeated efforts to legalize online sports betting bear fruit. However, even if the bills being considered by the Georgia legislature in 2023 are passed, it will be the end of the year at the earliest before any form of commercial online gambling launches in the state.
Georgia Online Casino Laws
Even if the attempts to legalize sports betting in Georgia are successful in 2023, that should not be taken as a sign that online Georgia casinos will swiftly follow. Online sports betting is now legal in more than 30 states, whereas only half a dozen permit legal online casinos to operate.
Another obstacle to the swift deployment of online casinos in the state is the complete absence of land-based commercial or Indian casinos here. In most states where online casinos are permitted, they operate in partnership with brick-and-mortar casinos. It is likely that the responsibility for licensing any online Georgia casino will lie with the state lottery.
The current situation with regard to online Georgia casinos can be summed up as follows:
- State law forbids online sports betting and casino play
- There are no physical casinos located within Georgia's state boundaries
- The only current option for casino play is the Emerald Princess casino cruise ship - and this casino's games can be enjoyed only on international waters
- Online sports betting will most likely need to be legalized before Georgia online casinos
- Even if sports wagering becomes legal, there is no guarantee that online casinos will follow imminently
Sweepstakes Casinos in Georgia
One way in which it is possible to play casino games online in Georgia is by visiting a social casino. Social casinos offer a wide selection of games - the only catch, and it is quite a significant one, is that you cannot play for real money. Instead, you use tokens with no financial value to enjoy the fun of slots and table games. One example is BetRivers.net, a social version of the famous BetRivers brand that is licensed for real money play in several states.
You may also be able to play at sweepstakes casinos. These are a variety of social casinos, but differ in one crucial - and legally gray - aspect. It is possible to exchange some of your tokens for tickets allowing entry to sweepstakes games that have real-money prizes.
When Will Online Casinos be Legal in Georgia?
It is not possible to state with any certainty how soon it will be before you will be able to play at a legal online Georgia casino. Several legislative steps will need to be taken first. Most significantly, we await the legalization of sports betting, which could happen as soon as late 2023.
However, it must be remembered that any proposal for legal online gambling must be approved by the voters of the Peach State. Even if this happens, it will probably be 2024 before the regulatory framework is in place for licensed operators to launch. Only when that market is up and running will it be possible to pencil in a time frame under which Georgia online casinos might be legalized too.
Who Would Regulate Georgia's Online Casinos?
It is not yet clear which body would oversee online casino gambling in Georgia. The proposals to legalize sports betting submitted in early 2023 vary on this point. Under one, any new market will be regulated by the Georgia Lottery Corporation, while under the other a new regulatory body will be established.
When a legal online sports betting market is established will it be possible to surmise the identity and function of the body overseeing online casinos here. However, this will be an important step in the process of launching the first mobile casino in Georgia; it is essential to have a legal framework in place before the first wager can be placed.
Can I Visit Offshore Online Casinos?
You may come across brands offering casino games online to people in Georgia. These are offshore brands with no connection to the Peach State, and they are operating here without a license.
We strongly recommend that you do not spend your money at offshore online casinos. There are several reasons why such an activity is fraught with risk:
- You have no guarantee that the casino games there are being run fairly
- Levels of customer security are liable to be lower than with a licensed casino
- There have been examples of offshore casinos running misleading promotional offers
- The standard of customer support will not compare with that of a legal casino
- In the event of a dispute, you have no legal recourse whatsoever to reclaim your money
What is the Georgia Lottery?
Launched in 1993, the state lottery offers a variety of games that can be played online and in person at outlets throughout Georgia. You can play scratchcards and second-chance games and can buy tickets for a host of draws. There are also Diggi games, which are very similar to slot titles.
The legal gambling age for the lottery is 18, in contrast to most wagering activities where you will need to be at least 21. Please note that there is a credit card needed, associated with an address in Georgia, for all online purchases.
Responsible Gambling in Georgia
It's important that all bodies licensed to offer online gambling services encourage their customers to play responsibly at all times. While gambling is a perfectly safe activity for the majority of people, for a small number it can carry the risk of addiction, which in turn leads to a host of financial and personal problems.
You should find a prominent link to responsible gambling resources at all legal online operators. This will carry advice about keeping your wagering under control, as well as links to specialized agencies that can offer expert assistance and support. In Georgia, these include the state-funded Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, as well as the local branch of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Casinos and Online Casinos in Georgia FAQ
Yes, there is. The Emerald Princess is a casino cruise ship that sails from Brunswick. Only when the ship has reached international waters is it allowed to open its slot machines and other games to passengers.
No, there are no land-based casinos in Georgia. This is a state with particularly strict laws around all forms of gambling, and as a result, you will not find any commercial or Indian casinos anywhere in the Peach State.
No, they are not. State law does not permit any company to offer casino games to online customers. Several legislative steps will have to be taken before the legal position changes and Georgia online casinos are allowed to open their virtual doors to players.
At this point, it is not possible to say which brands might one day receive a license to offer online games to casino enthusiasts in Georgia. However, there are several leading operators that have obtained licenses in the states where online casinos are allowed to function legally – we can expect these companies to apply for licenses here.
No, you will not need to be a Georgia resident to enjoy any form of legalized online gambling. However, you will need to be physically present in the state to use any platforms licensed to operate here. Online casinos use geo-location technology to check regularly that the customers using their services are located within state lines.
As things stand, there are very few forms of legalized gambling for online customers in Georgia. You can play games with the state lottery, enter charitable raffles, and visit social casinos. However, there is no way of betting on sports or at casinos – even betting on horse racing is outlawed here currently.
The state lottery offers a wide variety of games to players who can buy tickets at retail outlets and online. These include regular draw games, as well as scratchcards. You can also play Diggi games, which are similar to slot games in the way they operate.
Yes, you will. The proceeds of all forms of gambling are viewed as taxable income by the IRS, so you should expect to pay state and federal taxes and should keep an accurate record of your wins and losses. This includes state lottery prizes; tax authorities are informed of any win of $600 or more.
Martin Booth is the senior betting analyst for BetGeorgia.com. He is an award-winning contributor and expert in sports betting and casino gaming around the world. From legislative updates in Georgia to breaking down the top betting apps, Martin Booth covers a gambit of topics surrounding Georgia sports betting. He is one of the most trusted voices in online gambling and will continue to be a leading voice in the Georgia sports betting market.