Georgia Casinos and Gambling

Georgia is one of the stricter states in the United States when it comes to offering gambling. You won’t find any casinos or legal poker rooms in the state but you can find cruise ship based casinos who dock in Georgia, recreational poker tournaments, bingo, raffles, lottery, and state controlled video poker machines.

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Georgia Cruise Ship Gambling

On cruise ships that dock in places that don’t allow casino gambling, they travel to international waters before taking any wagers. The states where you load and unload have no control or jurisdiction on the gambling that happens in international waters.

International waters usually consist of water at least 12 miles from shore, but most laws allow casino gambling cruise ships to operate as long as they’re at least three miles from shore. This distance doesn’t really matter if you’re planning to play on a casino cruise, as the owner is responsible for following the law. You don’t have to worry about being charged for being on one of these types of cruises.

Anyone with enough capital to buy a cruise ship, fill it with slot machines and gaming tables, and staff it properly can offer gambling in international waters. As long as you can find a place to legally dock and don’t offer any gambling until you enter international waters, you can own your own casino enterprise.

While this seems like a good thing for people who want to enjoy casino gambling in coast states that don’t offer it, the problem is these operations aren’t governed by any law.

Casinos always offer games with a house edge, but on many jurisdictions they must offer games with payout percentages that meet certain standards. Cruise ships don’t have to follow any payback percentages.

For example, some jurisdictions require slot machines to offer no worse than a 10 or 15% house edge per spin. While these edges are big, casinos in international waters don’t have to follow these types of guidelines.

If you play blackjack, craps, roulette or video poker you don’t need to be too concerned about excessive house edge. But if you play slots you need to be aware that you may be playing a machine that has a higher edge than you’re used to playing. Slot machines are easy targets for this type of thing because it’s not easy to see the payout percentages for a slot machine.

The theoretical house edge can be determined for blackjack games based on the rules and video poker machines have pay tables that can be broken down to determine the edge. Roulette wheels all have the same pay back percentage as long as they have the same number of zeros. All roulette wheels with a single zero have the same edge, and all wheels with double zeros have the same edge.

Craps also has the same edge no matter where you play. The only thing that changes in craps is the odds wagers available and these are different in many places.

Georgia is the home port for two different casino cruise companies. The Emerald Princess and Tradewinds both offer casino gambling.

Emerald Princess Casino Cruise – The Emerald Princess has four decks of gaming and entertainment available on a 200 foot cruise ship. They have 220 slot machines, six Texas holdem tables, a craps table, two roulette wheels and 12 blackjack tables. The Emerald Princess is located in Brunswick, Georgia and is open 7 days a week.

Tradewinds Casino Cruise – Tradewinds offers blackjack spread from a minimum of $5 up to a maximum of $500 per hand, roulette, craps, a sports book, slot machines, video poker, Texas holdem poker, Let it Sail, and 5 Card Tradewind Stud poker. Tradewinds is located in Savannah, Georgia.

Poker in Georgia

Poker rooms aren’t legal in Georgia, but there are many places where you can play. You can find a network of poker games in a wide range of bars and taverns in some parts of the state and you can find underground and private games as well if you know where to look and who to ask.

Georgia Lottery

Georgia has a state run lottery and they participate in the Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries. They’ve offered the state lottery since 1993.

Bingo and Raffles

You can play bingo and participate in raffles in Georgia, but they must be run by a licensed, nonprofit, tax exempt, church, school, civic organization, or other legal organization.

These games can be offered for cash or other prizes of value as long as the proceeds are used in accordance with the laws of the state. This is why only tax exempt operations that are also legally licensed can run them.

Even though raffles and bingo games run by these operations are legal, they usually offer some of the worst pay back percentages you’ll find, ranking only slightly better than most lotteries.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t play, but you need to be aware that you are giving the organization running the games a big advantage. If you’d make a donation to the organization anyway and just want a chance to win something it’s ok, but don’t expect to have any chance of making a profit in the long run in these games.

Video Poker

In 2013 the Georgia state lottery started controlling and regulating video poker machines. Video poker machines can be found at retail locations in the state.

Slot Machine Ownership

While there’s no legal slot machine play available in Georgia, residents can own slot machines that were made before 1950. This is a carve out law that lets collectors keep old machines but makes it illegal to have any modern machines in their possession.
It’s still illegal to offer the collectable slots for play or to use them in any way that could be deemed as gambling.

Conclusion

While you can’t legally play in a casino or poker room in the state of Georgia you still have plenty of gaming options. Churches and other nonprofit organizations can offer bingo and raffles and the state controls some video poker games and the lottery. You can even play on casino cruise ships that dock in two different places in the state.

References

Georgia continues debating over Legal Casinos