While casino gambling and sports betting continue to enjoy rapid growth across the country, Georgia remains one of the least friendly gambling states in the union.
The only types of gambling permitted in the Peach State are the Georgia Lottery, bingo games and raffles. Although land-based legal gambling doesn’t exist in Georgia, a select few casino boats do operate out of Savannah and Brunswick. In order to offer legal gambling, these boats make use of a legislative loophole by first sailing into international waters.
Despite the lack of brick-and-mortar gambling locations in the state, alternative betting options exist for Georgians willing to travel.
Road trip options for Georgia gamblers
Not all hope is lost for Georgians, though. Residents also have the option to visit any of Georgia’s five surrounding states where multiple forms of gambling are legal.
For northern Georgia residents, North Carolina typically takes the cake as the preferable alternative.
North Carolina gambling laws are known to be relatively rigid – though less so than Georgia. The state currently prohibits most forms of gambling except for casinos on Native American reservations.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino is located just 46 miles (a 51-minute drive) from Dillard, GA, and serves as the closest option for residents in the upper part of the Peach State. As the largest casino in North Carolina, Harrah’s is home to a 21-story, four-star luxury hotel, nestled in the stunning Appalachian mountains. The venue also boasts over 3,000 gaming machines and 100 table games.
In all, North Carolina casinos feature more than 6,000 gaming machines and over 200 table games. The stakes at these casinos range from one cent to $100.
The Catawba Two Kings Casino, a $273 million Class III tribal casino resort that broke ground in July 2020, is still under construction. An ongoing federal investigation as to whether the Catawba tribe will be the sole beneficiary of the resort’s revenue seems to be holding up proceeds.
Nevertheless, a brand new, temporary Two Kings gaming facility is open 24/7, with 1,000 of the newest slot machines. Once the main casino is completed, it will be located just southeast of Charlotte with close to 2,000 gaming machines and over 50 table games.
North Carolina’s current gambling facilities include:
- Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee
- Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino in Murphy
- Cherokee Tribal Bingo in Cherokee
- Eastway Beach Bingo in Charlotte
- Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort in Kings Mountain – under construction
The Palmetto State is one of the strictest states when it comes to gambling. Unlike its northern neighbor, North Carolina, there are no casinos in any of South Carolina’s major cities. Instead, the state’s only option for legal gambling comes onboard a casino cruise.
Online gambling is also strictly forbidden within the state. Anyone caught participating in such an activity could face a large fine or even prison time. Only three forms of legal gambling exist in South Carolina:
- State lottery
South Carolina visitors can play slots and poker at social casinos that don’t involve real money. However the game selections are quite limited. The only way to bet with real money and enjoy diverse forms of gambling in South Carolina is to be on a boat. To date, the state has three major casino cruise ships:
- Big M Casino out of Little River
- Carnival Ecstasy Casino out of Charleston
- Carnival Sunshine Casino out of Charleston
The Sunshine State has had a long history with gambling. Florida casino gambling includes many well-known table games such as blackjack and Texas Hold’em poker, as well as roulette and slot machines.
It may come as a surprise, but several of Florida’s casinos also feature dog-track betting.
Florida casinos include both land-based gaming and cruise ship gambling. Georgians traveling to Florida will find a total of 77 casino and pari-mutuel facilities at their disposal. These casinos are spread across 31 cities throughout the state. In Miami alone, there are 18 casinos.
North Florida, on the other hand, features zero casinos. Georgians must travel to Florida’s central region or lower to enjoy full-fledged casino gambling.
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, FL, is the flagship casino resort run by the Seminole Tribe. It also happens to be the largest gambling venue in the state. It has 3,100 gaming machines and 100 table games. Located about a three-hour drive from Georgia’s southern border, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa is the second-largest facility, with 3,000 gaming machines along with 100 table games.
Florida’s five best casino options include:
- Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood
- Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa
- Magic City Casino in Miami
- Seminole Casino Coconut Creek in Coconut Creek
- Victory Casino Cruises out of Cape Canaveral
Much like North Carolina, Alabama casinos can only be on Native American lands. Although these casinos mainly feature bingo, they also offer slot machines, video gambling machines, pull-tab cards and horse racing.
VictoryLand in Shorter, AL, is the closest casino for those near west Georgia. This facility is located only an hour’s drive from Columbus, GA.
Other venues close to Georgia include Wind Creek Wetumpka, Wind Creek Montgomery, and Big Creek Gaming. Those prepared to travel a little further west into Alabama can find three additional gaming locations: Greenetrack Bingo & Racing, Riverchase Casino and Club Casino.
Alabama’s casino and gaming resorts are:
- VictoryLand in Shorter
- Wind Creek Wetumpka Casino & Hotel in Wetumpka
- Wind Creek Casino & Hotel Montgomery in Montgomery
- Greenetrack Bingo & Racing in Eutaw
- Wind Creek Atmore Casino & Hotel in Atmore
- Frontier Bingo in Knoxville
- Green Charity Bingo in Eutaw
- Little Casino Mine in Jefferson County
- Carnival Fantasy Casino in Mobile
- Birmingham Race Course in Birmingham
- Mobile Greyhound Park in Theodore
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is renowned for his opposition to gambling, having once referred to casinos as the most harmful form of gambling. While casino gambling remains illegal in The Volunteer State, Tennesseans have had the option to play the state lottery since 2002.
Georgia residents looking to place sports bets will also find favor in Tennessee. Sports betting only recently became legal there, with the first online sportsbook launching in November 2020. Tennessee’s sports betting market, however, is only available online. This means users can take part in sports betting in the comfort of their homes or from any other location in the state.
Tennessee’s legal sportsbooks include:
- Action 24/7
- Wynn Bet
- Superbook Sports
Georgia legislators remain hopeful about legalization
Georgia has seen numerous attempts legalize casino gambling in past years. Just last year, lawmakers were considering two sports betting bills to the House of Representatives. Neither became law, however.
But that could change this year, according to GA House Speaker David Ralston, who, in a recent interview, said legislators could place gambling on the Georgia ballot in the upcoming election.
Stacey Abrams, former Georgia state representative and current candidate for Georgia governor, is another influential voice advocating for the legalization of gambling. Abrams recently unveiled her expansive Georgia economic agenda, thus confirming her support for gaming, sports betting, and casino gambling in the state.