Georgia Poker Laws

A Guide to Poker in the State of Georgia

Georgia Gambling Laws to Florida in order to play.

This guide to poker in Georgia starts off with a brief summary of gambling laws and enforcement in the State. You can then find out if poker is legal or not Georgia. Next live options for poker players are covered before wrapping up with an overview of online poker.

An Overview of Gambling in Georgia

Since the banning of lottery tickets in 1878 there was little or no gambling within Georgia until the State lottery was created in 1993.  Other forms of gambling allowed have only been charity bingo and raffles which have been legal since 1976. In order to gamble without travelling out of State your only real choice is to join a “cruise to nowhere” on one of the boat casinos which travel from Georgia into international waters.

Despite surrounding States benefiting from the tax revenue generated by gambling  - conservative views still dominate in Georgia and attempts to extend  legislation to cover other forms of gambling has been quashed. A vote to establish a casino, where the profits would pay for education in the State, was actually won in 2012, although it was not signed into law.

Georgia takes a proactive role in shutting down illegal gambling. Since 1981 fifty bingo licenses have been revoked for breaching the rules and there have been undercover operations to close down riverboats which have opened their casinos before leaving Georgia’s waters.

Is Poker Legal in Georgia?

Georgia Code Section 16-12-21 clearly states “A person commits the offense of gambling when (3) he plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice or balls”

This clearly makes it illegal to play any card game for money, including poker. By clearly stating “bet” in the legislation the arguments of whether poker is a game of skill or a game of luck is redundant, as regardless you need to bet in order to play the game.

What are the Options for Live Poker within Georgia?

With the law clearly making it illegal to play poker there are few options for players within Georgia. As there is no provision for Social Gaming even home games for real money is classed as illegal gambling. Such games have been raided by the police before, including the case in Albany when 14 business owners and a former mayor were arrested. While it is unlikely that small stakes games between family and friends would gain the attention of the authorities, you are technically breaking the law by playing in them.

You can find free to enter bar leagues. Even though these games are free to enter there are small prizes for winners provided by the bars. These are used by the bars as a way to generate business, usually midweek when little else is going on to attract customers. While there are no fees to enter, the bar covers the cost of the prizes and profits from the extra sales the players generate. With few other options to play, these have proved to be very popular.

To play for significant real money play your only option is to join one of the boat cruises based in Savannah. These boats take you out of the river and into international waters, out of Georgia’s jurisdiction. These cruises are affordable and usually include a meal, although their main focus is casino games rather than poker. If you are able to find a poker game on one remember to have enough funds available to keep you entertained. With nowhere else to go, if you get felted early a five hour boat trip may feel a lot longer!

Georgia’s Stance on Online Poker

Unsurprisingly, given the State’s firm stance against gambling no regulated online poker exists within its boundaries. While there is no legislation specifically naming online poker, or gambling for that matter, it is assumed that the current Statutes define it as illegal along with live gambling.

Players in Georgia are able to access the offshore poker rooms provided by companies based outside of the US, usually in the Caribbean. As these companies’ businesses are completely legal and regulated in their own country, they argue their right to provide games to US citizens under free-trade laws. While the US government view this a different way there are no laws, either federally or from within Georgia to prevent residents playing poker online.

What the government has done instead is try to prevent financial transactions to and from the offshore sites. When the UIEGA was passed in 2006, the rules were set that financial companies within the US were unable to offer services to such offshore companies. This can make it difficult to deposit or withdraw funds, although the poker rooms usually provide a range of methods.

While no one has ever been charged with playing online within Georgia, the situation is at best uncertain.

In Summary – Georgia Poker

With strong anti-gambling laws you are taking a risk even playing poker for real money in your own home. The only options for live play is either in the free bar leagues or on a riverboat if you can find one spreading poker games, other than that you have to travel out of State.

While no enforcement has ever been applied to those playing online it is assumed it covered by existing State laws and as such is illegal. There are no plans to regulate online poker within Georgia.