Few states in America actually pass laws to outlaw casinos. It would be easy enough to simply not legalize the construction of casinos, but Georgia went the opposite direction to actually ban them. Georgia laws ban the transmitting of information related to bets and prohibits all unregulated gambling businesses.
With that said, the legislature has been considering sports betting. Lawmakers appear to categorize sports betting differently than betting on anything else.
Poker players in Georgia have been trying to find ways to open poker rooms, and they appear to be doing it through a charity gambling loophole.
Simply put, there is no state-regulated online poker or online gambling sites of any kind in the state of Georgia.
That doesn’t leave Georgia poker players with many options. There is social poker, which is free-play poker on social poker apps, or sweepstakes-style online poker on sites like Global Poker. Some players do choose to play on offshore-licensed poker sites, but most legal experts do not recommend it.
The most popular form of online poker among Georgians is social poker. This type of free-play poker is available through Facebook (Meta) or by downloading any of the social poker apps available that require no money to play.
Zynga Poker is, by far, the most downloaded free poker app in the world. More than 50 million people have downloaded the app to date, and it is a place to practice simple gameplay and strategy without spending a dime. There are in-app purchases available, but there is no way to cash out any real-money poker winnings from Zynga.
The WSOP Poker Texas Hold’em Game poker app is nearly as popular, also registering more than 50 million downloads. WSOP runs the app on the Playtika platform, and players can find poker lessons on the site from poker pros like Vanessa Selbst, Patrik Antonius, and 2022 WSOP Main Event Champion Espen Jorstad.
Sites like PokerStars do offer free-play poker. PokerStars-dot-net is the place to compete with play-money but still find all of the poker lessons and strategy content that is available to real-money players. The PokerStars.net site also allows players to create their own home games online.
This is unique concept in online poker. It was created as a way to allow poker players to compete in online poker tournaments and cash games without running afoul of the state laws that differ in nearly every American state.
Global Poker is the site for poker using the sweepstakes model. Essentially, this is a free-play poker site, but many poker players have been discovering that they can convert their virtual currency on the site to real-money prizes, such as cash and gift cards. It makes Global Poker the closest thing to traditional online poker without using offshore sites.
To play for real money on Global Poker, this is the simplified process:
There are also special offers and promotions that give players bonus coins. In-app purchases can be boosted by using special codes provided by authorized agents.
More than 250K players from the United States have already created accounts on Global Poker. This means that the player pools continue to grow, increasing prize pool guarantees and allowing for a larger variety of cash games.
It is no secret that poker players in Georgia play on offshore sites. They just do.
After Black Friday in 2011, players in the United States were left without PokerStars and Full Tilt, UltimateBet and Absolute Poker. Partypoker had exited the market years earlier as well. Offshore sites were the only alternative to players uprooting their entire lives and moving to another country.
Since that time, only a few states – not including Georgia – have legalized online poker but on a much smaller scale than in the past. And Global Poker didn’t come into existence until years after Black Friday. Many players simply continued to play on sites licensed offshore.
This is an option for players today. Sites like ACR Poker have inviting promotions, large tournament series, and more cash games that American players will find on any US-facing online poker room. There are several drawbacks, though.
These are risks that many poker players have deemed worth taking. However, other players remember losing their funds on Black Friday when sites like Full Tilt Poker, UB, and AP could not honor player withdrawals. Those players are wary of offshore sites and tend to stick with state-licensed poker online or options like Global Poker.
As mentioned, Georgia law prohibits traditional casinos, both commercial and tribal. This automatically eliminates the option of a large poker room on a casino property. Some fans of poker have taken matters into their own hands, choosing to open small poker rooms and operate bar leagues.
Under Georgia’s current gambling laws, charity-based gambling is allowed in some circumstances. There are some nonprofit organizations that have operated small poker rooms using that legal loophole, but the rooms are not advertised or even known to poker databases like Poker Atlas.
The Atlanta Poker Club operates under the bar poker league exception to the law.
Georgia statutes prohibit playing or betting “for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, or balls.” The Atlanta Poker Club (APC) started organizing games that don’t involve playing cash poker or buying in to live poker tournaments. Instead, they welcome everyone to join for free, and members of the league can then play free tournaments for prizes.
Some of those prizes happen to be cash. The league also awards gift certificates for the venues at which the players compete, and the venues can then exchange those gift certificates for cash. There are also World Series of Poker prize packages up for grabs, APC Championship bracelets, and various venue prizes like televisions and tickets to various sporting events. Special events also award unique APC trophies.
As the website notes, “Just so we’re clear, NO illegal gambling allowed, ever!”
There are more than 50 venues that host weekly APC events. Some are online, but most are in sports bars and restaurants around Georgia, from Athens to Gainesville, and from Smyrna to Atlanta. Most events offer No Limit Hold’em events, but some have begun to spread Pot Limit Omaha and even mixed games.
There are few lawmakers in the Georgia legislature who have tried to legalize gambling. They know the difficulties those bills face, that they are unlikely to even pass through a committee due to the conservative nature of that legislative body.
Gambling is rarely an issue that candidates for high state political offices even address. Stacey Abrams was no traditional candidate.
Abrams ran for the Georgia governorship in the 2022 election. Part of her overall platform was to improve education in Georgia, and she needed to propose ways to pay for things like tuition-free college and aid-based college, and upgraded and abundant technology for children starting in pre-kindergarten classes and up through pre-college courses.
To pay for those programs, Abrams published a policy paper pledging her support for state-licensed sports betting and land-based casinos. She promised to work to pass legislation for online sports wagering and “champion a constitutional amendment to bring casinos to GA.” With those proposals, she vowed upgraded programs for dealing with gambling addiction and associated mental and behavioral health issues.
In November 2022, Abrams lost her bid to be the next governor of Georgia.
When the United States Supreme Court struck down PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992) in May 2018, the prohibition on sports betting all but disappeared in America. Every state had the option to legalize sports betting – retail or online – as they saw fit.
Georgians love their sports. So, in 2019, some members of the Georgia House of Representatives decided to consider legislation to legalize sports betting with taxes allocated to educational needs in the state. That bill died.
In 2020, a group of Georgia senators took the initiative to propose a bill. The first draft died in committee, but when the pandemic took over and Georgia – like so many states – faced economic problems, members of the House proposed a bill to revive the earlier one that year. Even with the financial need in mind, lawmakers could not agree to move a bill forward.
The same process played out in 2021 and 2022.
Most recently, the 2023 legislative calendar found several bills proposed with a notable number of cosponsors. The House did not even vote on its bill, while the Senate voted against its two proposals.
Lawmakers plan to try again in 2024.