Legal Poker in Georgia
Georgia law does not declare online poker legal or illegal. There is a state lottery, which was legalized in the early 1990s. Raffles for charitable organizations are also allowed. Some bingo is allowed if licensed.
Specifically banned activities include wagering on dog or horse races, dogfighting, casinos, commercial gambling, pyramid clubs, and chain letters.
Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in Georgia
There have been no changes in Georgia’s gambling laws for online poker.
In 2011, there was a movement to give law enforcement the authority to raid gambling parlors. The move was to target internet cafes that allowed people to use computers there for internet gaming. There were estimated to be up to 100 facilities at the time then-Governor Nathan Deal put forth the initiative. However, attention does not seem to stray from those particular facilities.
There are some lawmakers who introduce casino legalization bills each year. The 2017 bill was sponsored by State Senator Brandon Beach, who used Senate Bill 79 to try to legalize a horse racing track and up to six land-based casinos. He eventually changed the language of the bill from six casinos to two “destination resort” establishments, but the bill still failed to garner much support. The bill could not even make it out of committee. Beach does intend to continue working toward building casinos in Georgia in the coming years.
Georgia Laws Pertinent to Online Poker
All gambling-related laws are listed in the Georgia Code under Title 16, which is for crimes and offenses. Gambling is handled under Chapter 12 – offenses against public health and morals – right alongside obscenity, abortion, human body traffic, cigarettes, and offenses against public transportation.
A bet is defined as
“an agreement that, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value.”
That doesn’t allow any room for arguing that poker is a game of skill.
A gambling device is “any contrivance which for a consideration affords the player an opportunity to obtain money or other thing of value, the award of which is determined by chance even though accompanied by some skill, whether or not the prize is automatically paid by contrivance.” It also includes “any video game machine or device, operated for any consideration, for the player of poker, blackjack, any other card game…” It is unclear if a computer could be considered a gambling device on which to play poker, as the definition has never been contested.
A gambling place, by definition of the code, can include any real estate, building, room, tent, vehicle, boat, or other property whatsoever. This seems to include home poker games, and the charge for knowingly operating a gambling place is a misdemeanor “of a high and aggravated nature.”
The law is very specific about certain other activities that are prohibited under the gambling clause:
- Commercial gambling
- Possession, manufacturing, or transfer of a gambling device
- Possession of antique slot machine
- Solicitation of another to gamble
- Advertisement of commercial gambling
- Communicating gambling information
- Bribing a contestant in a contest or exhibition
While there is no statute directed at persons who play online poker or casino games, there is a statute that could be used against online poker operators. The “solicitation of another to gamble with intent to defraud or deceive” is complicated but includes many examples, all of which are punishable by one to five years in prison. One is “permits the playing for money or other thing of value of a game or device for the hazarding of money or other thing of value,” and another is simply “permits the betting or wagering of money or other thing of value.”
Most definitions and explanations in the Georgia Code use somewhat antiquated language and remain broad in scope. The lack of many changes in gambling law through the decades keeps the law out of touch with today’s technology and forms of gambling.
There are regular raids in Georgia conducted on large home games or tournaments held in homes, as law enforcement officials are quick to act on tips of medium- or large-scale gambling. There have not been any raids or crackdowns pertaining to online gambling, and the state government has not pursued any legal charges against anyone involved in online gambling, though the state keeps busy monitoring nearly every other type of land-based gambling.
Disclaimer: This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Should poker players in Georgia risk playing online?
Answer: It is everyone’s personal choice to play online poker, but there doesn’t seem to be any desire by Georgia’s government to crack down on internet poker players. If the state goes after operators, it will be a bad sign, but until then, most players feel safe online.
Question: What sites are open to Georgia players?
Answer: Bovada and Ignition Poker are two of the most popular sites with poker players in Georgia, though BetOnline and Intertops both find a fair amount of interest in the state, too. There are five sites in total that offer safe online poker to Georgia residents.
Question: Why is Georgia so opposed to gambling?
Answer: In some ways, Georgia is still set in an old southern mindset, one that believes gambling to be sinful and immoral. While other states benefit from the economic boosts of casinos and other forms of gambling, Georgia has only truly embraced the lottery thus far. The state is comfortable in its old ways.