Gambling and Georgia have struggled to get on the same page. It’s why the rapidly expanding form of entertainment for much of the country isn’t legal here.
Lottery or charitable gaming are the exceptions.
Charitable gaming is a form of prized-based games hosted by licensed nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations. Legal forms of charitable gaming in Georgia include bingo games and raffles. While putting on a bingo game night or hosting a raffle may sound simple, there are actually several restrictions operators must adhere to in order to ensure everything is legal.
Cost to host charitable gaming is just $100 a year
There are actually a couple more exceptions to Georgia’s strict ban on most types of gambling. While most forms of Georgia online gambling are prohibited, including sports betting, poker and online casinos, there are no laws for or against daily fantasy sports. And, since 2013, coin-operated amusement machines have been legal in the state.
Regulated by the Georgia Lottery, it’s interesting that COAMs require real money to play but do not give cash prizes.
Charitable gaming is legal in Georgia so nonprofit organizations can have an avenue to raise funds. The only cost of doing so is $100 to acquire a one-year license. The only requirements are that an entity hosting bingo has been a nonprofit for 12 months, and for 24 months to put on a raffle. Also, all participants in these events must be 18 years or older.
Recreational bingo games differ from typical bingo games in Georgia
When it comes to bingo games, licensed operators can receive money from participants attending the event and give out limited cash prizes to winners. An operator may not give out more than $1,500 worth of prizes in a single day, or $3,000 in a single week. Licenses are granted by the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). The operator must own all bingo equipment involved in the event.
Recreational bingo is a bit different from typical bingo games. Participants are not charged to play in recreational bingo games, which can only be operated by nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations as well. All prizes are non-cash prizes, and the total of those prizes cannot exceed what is established by the GBI director.
Recreational bingo games include games in which the participants are senior citizens participating at a licensed operator’s establishment or at a nursing home, retirement home, senior living center or hospital. The prizes can be nominal cash prizes not exceeding $5 for any prize. Recreational bingo is not considered a lottery.
County sheriffs in Georgia license raffles
It’s a little bit different for raffles. Applicants must apply for a license through their county sheriff’s office. Only a single raffle can be held during any given day.
As for who benefits, the nonprofits are the clear beneficiaries here.
It’s a creative and engaging way to get people to support their organization or charity, while offering those in attendance a little bit of entertainment or reward.
Differences between charitable gaming and casino gambling
The main difference between charitable gaming and casino gambling, aside from their contrasting legal statuses in Georgia, is the number of ways to game or gamble. Casinos can come with a wide variety of ways to play: roulette, slot machines, poker, sports betting – you name it. In Georgia, charitable gaming doesn’t extend beyond raffles and bingo games.
Another major difference is the winnings. While charitable gaming can have prizes range from less than $5 to $1,500 in value, depending on if it’s recreational or not, casinos almost exclusively offer cash prizes. Those prizes can range from a couple of cents to potentially millions.
The operation of the charitable gaming events versus a day of operation at a casino are vastly different, too. Casinos employ paid employees to oversee the operation of the casino. Charitable gaming events are typically run by volunteers or are assisted by people who can be paid no more than $30 per day.
Gambling outside Georgia’s borders
Gambling may not be legal in Georgia, but some neighboring states offer gambling opportunities to Georgians who cross borders. Florida, however, is one state where the status of gambling is a little more complicated.
Mobile sports betting was legalized in Florida initially in 2021, until a judge ruled an agreement between the state of Florida and the Seminole Tribe illegal. In June, a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously voted to overturn the decision that stopped legal sports betting in the state. The state is preparing to bring online sports betting back this fall, as long as a potential Supreme Court ruling doesn’t jeopardize that process.
|Is it legal?||GA||AL||FL||NC||SC||TN|
|Online gambling||No||No||TBD||In 2024***||No||Yes|
|Casinos||No||Native American reservations||Yes||Native American reservations||No||No|
* South Carolina has proposed legislation in consecutive years to legalize sports gambling, but no laws have been passed.
**Alabama and Florida have no state licensing requirement for charitable gaming. However, select counties in both states do.
***North Carolina signed online gambling into law in June. The introduction of sports betting is expected in 2024.
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