Georgia Legal Poker Sites

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Relevant state code: 16-12-20 et seq.

Georgia trails behind only states such as Utah when it comes to draconian gambling regulations.  The state takes what can only be called a very strict approach to regulating gambling that is based on a very broad definition of what constitutes an act of illegal gambling: 

Section 16-12-21
(a) A person commits the offense of gambling when he:

(1) 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;
(2) 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
(3) Plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, or balls.

We can only assume that the gambling law in Georgia applies equally to females despite the exclusive use of "he" in the statute.

While the above definition would be broad enough as to encompass most wagers, Georgia law further restricts legal gambling via the statutory definition of a Gambling Device:

Section 16-12-20.
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;

(B) Any slot machine or any simulation or variation thereof;
(C) Any matchup or lineup game machine or device, operated for any consideration, in which two or more numerals, symbols, letters, or icons align in a winning combination on one or more lines vertically, horizontally, diagonally, or otherwise, without assistance by the player. Use of skill stops shall not be considered assistance by the player; or
(D) Any video game machine or device, operated for any consideration, for the play of poker, blackjack, any other card game, or keno or any simulation or variation of any of the foregoing, including, but not limited to, any game in which numerals, numbers, or any pictures, representations, or symbols are used as an equivalent or substitute for cards in the conduct of such game.

Taken in tandem, these two definitions would seem to prohibit just about any sort of gambling that is not explicitly legalized by the state. 

Operators of a gambling business not explicitly authorized by the state face a wide array of charges and significant penalties for everything from running the business to advertising the business to simply owning gambling devices - even if it can be shown that the devices were not intended for actual gambling.  Individuals who violate gambling law as mere participants face a misdemeanor charge but are clearly not the primary focus of the law in Georgia.

Is Any Gambling or Poker Legal Under Georgia Law?

There is a state lottery in Georgia.  Otherwise, Georgia does not have regulated commercial or tribal gambling.  One quasi-exception: A variety of club-based poker tournament leagues operate in Georgia, apparently staying within the law by not charging any entry fee to players (but still providing cash prizes).. 

Social gambling is not explicitly exempted from Georgia gambling law. 

There are some exceptions for charitable gambling in Georgia - limited raffles and bingo can be conducted by recognized and licensed organizations.

Is Playing Poker for Money Legal in Georgia?

This question is even sticker for residents of Georgia than for residents of most other states.  One one hand, the statutory definition of gambling expressly prohibits "Plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards," which obviously would include poker - at least cash games.

However, as the long-operating poker clubs in Georgia (apparently) prove, you can play tournament poker for money and prizes in Georgia provided that you don't have to risk any of your own money (or thing of value) to participate in the tournament.

Playing home poker games in Georgia would seem to run afoul of the law, even if no rake is taken or entry fee charged.

Can I Play at Online Poker Sites in Georgia?

There does not appear to be any law on the books in Georgia that deals specifically with the issue of online poker.

There are a few particular aspects of the law regarding gambling in Georgia that could be interpreted to apply to online gambling.  The statutory definition of gambling device, for one, prohibits: "Any video game machine or device, operated for any consideration, for the play of poker, blackjack, any other card game, or keno or any simulation or variation of any of the foregoing."  Georgia also has a transmission law which makes it illegal to communicate information "as to bets, betting odds, or changes in betting odds" which could prove problematic for those involved in online gambling.

Like Florida, Georgia has been cracking down on so-called Internet sweepstakesc afes, but it is unclear if these actions will pave the way for future actions against online gambling operators not physically located in the state.

Summary:  Both operators of online poker sites and players involved in online gambling are likely in violation of Georgia law, although the risk to individual players seems relatively negligible.

Georgia Gambling Law - Fun Facts

The Georgia Constitution prohibits casinos and parimutuel betting.

Under Georgia law, gambling contracts are void.  That's not atypical of US state laws, but here's the twist:  Georgia law permits anyone to sue to recover gambling losses if no claim has been made by the losing party after 6 months.  This means that any resident of Georgia could theoretically sue to recover the illegal gambling losses of any individual in the state (should the loser not make a claim themselves within 6 months)..

Recent Poker / Gambling News for Georgia Laws

Georgia has been moving aggressively in the last two years to crack down on Internet sweepstakes cafes.

Otherwise, there has been little news as of late regarding Georgia and online gambling.  Georgia has made no public moves to either regulate or further restrict Internet gambling, whether it be casino gambling or poker.

Will Georgia Regulate & Legalize Online Poker Sites?

Almost certainly not.  The hostile attitude toward gambling expressed both by Georgia's laws and the current administration effectively ensures that any proposed gambling expansion in Georgia would meet stiff resistance. 

Georgia could see the state lottery expand to online sales, but it is highly unlikely that any other form of gambling (including online poker rooms) would follow online in the lottery's wake.  There is little to no reason to believe that regulated online poker for real money will come to Georgia at any time in the foreseeable future. 

Written by Christine Davies

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