The structure of online poker laws throughout the United States have altered immensely over the last few years. In 2006, the US government took a no-tolerance stance towards online gambling with passage of the UIGEA. In April of 2011, the Department of Justice re-affirmed its assertion that the Wire Act of 1961 outlawed online poker and other gambling related activities throughout the US with numerous indictments that have become known universally as the Black Friday of Online Poker.
Then out of nowhere, in December of that same year, the DOJ reversed its position and declared that all states should have the right to choose whether to legalize and regulate online gambling activities within their borders. Unfortunately for residents of Georgia, online poker doesn’t look to be something state legislators are interested in permitting.
Legality of Online Poker Georgia
Let me start by saying that Georgia’s gambling laws are so antiquated that there is nothing within their literature that specifically bans online poker games. However, as with many US states, the verbiage is ambiguous enough as to imply, via the definitions of “bet” and “gambling device”, that online poker may be just as illegal as just about any other form of wagering in the state. In the same token, those laws are pointed more towards operators, not players.
With that in mind, there are several online poker sites which continue to accept players from the Empire State of the South. Since allusive Georgia online poker laws aren’t enough to scare off dozens of online operators, you can rest assured there are plenty of inhabitants who continue to play card games over the internet. Consdering such, it should be noted that there are known reports of anyone in the state of Georgia being arrested and charged with illegal gambling over the internet. As for whether it’s truly a crime, or even punishable by Georgia Code, it would take a law professor to make that determination.
What we do know for certain is that most all forms of gambling are strictly prohibited in the state of Georgia. There are no casinos, no horse or greyhound racing tracks, no card rooms. The only thing gambling enthusiasts in Georgia have to look forward to is a pair of casino cruise ships, which are only permitted to offer gambling while traversing the bay. Permissible forms of gambling on Georgia soil are limited to the state lottery and charitable raffles.
We will examine the state laws in regards to gambling to reveal those that might pertain to the legalities of online poker in Georgia. We will also discuss the possibility of future regulation in the state.
Georgia Code – Gambling and Related Offenses
The following text is taken directly from the 2010 Georgia Code; Title 16, Crimes and Offenses; Chapter 12, Offenses Against Public Health and Morals; Article 20, Gambling Definitions (Georgia Code 16-12-20). Note that some text was omitted for fluency and/or lack of application.
Bet: means an agreement that, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value. A bet does not mean:
(b) An offer of a prize, award, or compensation to the actual contestants in any bona fide contest for the determination of skill, speed, strength, or endurance or to the owners of animals, vehicles, watercraft, or aircraft entered in such contest.
Gambling Device: means:
(a) 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… 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.
Any item described in subparagraph (B), (C), or (D) of this paragraph shall be a prohibited gambling device subject to and prohibited by this part, notwithstanding any inference to the contrary in any other law of this state.
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.
A person who commits the offense of gambling shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in Georgia?
Although the term internet, world wide web, cyberspace or any other synonym for playing poker ‘online’ is never specifically stated, the definition of a gambling device” as being a “contrivance” obscurely outlaws the use of a computer to play poker for real money. Although “a bona fide contest for the determination of skill” is permitted, that refers to competitors or owners of competitors winning a prize for being skilled, not wagering on such an event. The fact that bets “determined by chance even though accompanied by some skill” are outlawed could easily be construed as grounds for prohibiting online poker.
Is Georgia working to regulate online poker?
Sadly, Georgia is probably the lowest rung on the ladder of states in regards to a desire to legalize online poker. The state’s current stance to prohibit most forms of gambling is enough to tell us that law makers are not seeking to reverse their opinion in regards to online poker activities. Chances are, the only thing that might possibly encourage Georgia legislators to even examine the advantages of a legalized internet poker market would be federal regulation of online poker, and that isn’t going to happen until 2014 at the earliest. Even then, it’s a stretch.