Georgia Online Sports Betting
You may be wondering why we are writing about sports betting in Georgia, a state that does not currently allow gambling of any kind other than a state lottery. It has been a pleasant surprise to see the debate over legalizing online sports betting in Georgia take off over the past couple of years. Few people thought Georgia would ever legalize sports betting, but the legislature is now closer than it has ever been to introducing an online-only model in the state.
How close? Let’s break it all down. From Georgia’s gambling history, to current efforts and potential timelines, to what the industry might ultimately look like. We leave no Georgia online sports betting stone unturned.
Gambling History in Georgia
Like many southern states, the lottery was popular in Georgia back in the mid-1800’s. But the lotteries were corrupt and state leaders did not want the vice of gambling in their state, so lotteries were banned in 1878. That law stood for over 100 years, as did the prohibition of any sort of gambling in the Peach state. Other states, most notably Florida, legalized horse and greyhound racing along with various lotteries, but Georgia stood firm until 1976, when charity bingo and raffles were legalized.
In 1992, Georgia established a state-run lottery to fund educational opportunities for youth, including the HOPE scholarship program. The lottery remains very popular and, along with charity bingo, is still the only form of gambling in the state.
Pro-gaming interest groups have been pushing to expand gambling in Georgia for years. Any expansion of gambling, including horse racing and retail casinos, would require a public vote on a state constitutional amendment. In the past, sports betting has been included in the lobbying efforts to expand gambling by amending the state constitution. The familiar arguments of job creation and increased tax revenue lead the lobbying efforts of casino and horse racing companies hoping for new business opportunities in Georgia.
Opponents of expanded gaming in the state, led by the faith community, counter that any sort of gambling is immoral and an addictive habit that should not be condoned by the state. Over the years public hearings have been held, arguments have been made, bills have been introduced, and… nothing has happened. Opposition to any sort of gambling, including sports betting, seems to be why legislative action has not been taken. Many legislators are concerned that legalizing any sort of gambling will open the door for all types of gambling to become legal and normalized in the state.
A Different Approach
In 2021, State Representative Ron Stephens took a different approach. He separated the legalization efforts of casinos, sports betting, and horse racing into three different bills, rather than trying to combine them all into one proposal that would require both legislative approval and a constitutional amendment voted on by the people. His new legislative strategy split off sports betting into an online-only, state lottery-run model that would not require a constitutional amendment. This is important because a bill that requires a constitutional amendment must be passed by two-thirds of the members of each legislative body in addition to being approved by a public vote. This is a very tall task that is seen to have little chance of success in GA. A regular bill, on the other hand, requires a simple majority vote by the legislature. So a lottery-run online-only sports betting model could be up in 2021 if approved by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Stephens introduced similar legislation in 2020 but it was not considered by the legislature.
H.B. 86 and S.B. 142
Representative Stephens’ bill, H.B. 86, would allow “no fewer than six” licenses to be issued by the state lottery commission to companies that offer online sports betting. These companies would pay a $50,000 application fee and $900,000 annual licensing fee along with a 14 percent tax on their income. All revenue generated by this tax would go toward education programs, including the HOPE scholarship. H.B. 86 would not allow betting on any college sports at all, an unusual wrinkle in a state with very popular college sports teams.
The bill was passed out of the House Tourism and Economic Development Committee, which Rep. Stephens chairs, and on to the House floor, and later back to committee again. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate, S.B. 142, with the biggest difference being the inclusion of college sports and the tax rates on income generated from sports betting (14 percent in the House bill, 10 percent in the Senate bill).
Support of Professional Sports Teams
Four of Georgia’s professional sports teams have joined together to create the Georgia Professional Sports Integrity Alliance (GPSIA), an industry coalition that is part of the push for legalized online sports betting in the state.
The Alliance does not benefit directly from legalized online sports betting (stadium subsidies, etc.), but, should online sports betting be legalized in Georgia, it doesn’t take much to envision the teams partnering with a betting company, similar to Washington Football Team’s partnership with FanDuel in Virginia. Such a scenario would be permitted under H.B. 86.
The Alliance’s public statements focus on the ability of legalized online sports betting to serve as a further way to engage their fan bases, “especially the next generation of fans.” Additionally, they support the requirement that betting companies use league data to settle in-game bets, which would be an additional revenue source for their respective sports leagues.
No description of efforts to legalize sports betting would be complete without a mention of PASPA. Passed by Congress in 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), prohibited states from enacting laws that legalized sports betting. States that already had some form of legalized sports betting on the books (Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon) were exempt, and other states were allowed one year to pass their own laws related to sports betting. None did, and the nation went on with single-game sports betting only being offered in Nevada. Little changed while PASPA was active. Notably, the legislation did not ban sports betting federally; it only prevented states from legalizing sports betting on their own.
New Jersey Leads the Way
In 2012, legislative leaders in New Jersey wanted to legalize sports betting in order to help the ailing casinos in Atlantic City. They envisioned packed casino sportsbooks and overflowing state coffers, so they passed a law legalizing sports betting. The major sports leagues were vehemently opposed to any sort of legalization at the time, and took the state to court. The state lost in court several times, and the prospects for sportsbooks in New Jersey and other states looked dim. But, in a highly unexpected move, in 2017 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
Supreme Court Weighs In
In June 2018, the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, ruled that PASPA unconstitutionally prevented states from legalizing sports betting, and struck down the law. This meant that states were free to legalize and regulate sports betting in whatever way they see fit. A game-changing victory for supporters of legalized sports betting! Within weeks of the Supreme Court decision, retail casinos in a few states, including New Jersey and Mississippi, began accepting wagers on sporting events.
Since PASPA was struck down, each state has taken a different approach to sports betting, with some authorizing mobile and retail betting, some just mobile, some just retail, and others remaining opposed to any expansion of gambling whatsoever. Mobile betting, by far the preferred option of most sports bettors, is now legal, regulated and available in more than a dozen states.
When Will Betting Go Live in Georgia?
We’ve discussed what is included in the legislation being debated in the Georgia statehouse. But what does that mean for people in Georgia who are ready to bet on the Hawks and Braves? If H.B. 86 or its companion bill in the Senate is signed into law, the state lottery would be the regulator and could finish the rules and regulations within a few months. Licenses would then be issued and online sports betting could go live. It is challenging to predict whether this legislation will pass, but many influential Georgia state politicians support the legislation, so it is certainly realistic to think that sports betting could be coming to the Peach state sometime in 2021.
Possible Georgia Betting Rules
Let’s say that online sports betting does make it to Georgia this year. What would that mean for bettors? Here are some guidelines included in the pending legislation discussed earlier.
No betting on college teams
This is a bit of a surprise. Many states do not allow betting on college teams within their states, but, if H.B. 86 passes, Georgia may be the first state to prohibit betting on college sports altogether. It’s surprising because the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, along with SEC football and basketball, are hugely popular in the state. State legislative leaders are sticking with wagering on professional sports only, so you can watch the Bulldogs on Saturday and bet on the Falcons on Sunday. Note: The Senate companion bill allows betting on college sports aside from Georgia-based teams. This is an important distinction that will be clarified as the legislative process continues and a potential compromise bill is negotiated.
No one under the age of 21 will be allowed to bet on sports in Georgia. Most states have a 21+ age requirement, but a few allow those 18 and older to bet on sports, similar to buying lottery tickets.
Since there are no casinos in Georgia, if sports betting is legalized it will be online-only, similar to Tennessee.
Plenty of choices
It has been proposed that there will be six or more sports betting companies in the state, regulated by the Georgia Lottery Corporation. This means that bettors will have options on who they bet with.
This may seem obvious, but registration for an online betting account will be remote only. You can sign up for your mobile account right from your desktop computer or smartphone. Some states, most notably Nevada, still require in-person registration for online betting, but most states allow bettors to register online.
You must be in Georgia to bet
Only wagers placed from inside the state of Georgia will be accepted. You don’t have to be a Georgia resident to open an account or even place a bet, but you do have to physically be there to place a wager. Geolocation software and/or location tracking software will be required to prove you are actually in the state. This is standard industry practice, and a relatively seamless process. Mobile devices have built-in GPS chips, and computer users can satisfy the requirement with a quick download.
Betting operators will be required to allow customers to restrict themselves from betting, including limits on amounts wagered, and must take reasonable steps to prevent those customers from placing wagers.
Potential Markets and Bet Types
A market is an available bet posted on a sportsbook. Examples include spread bets, over/under, moneyline, and even bets on individual player performance. These bets are also known as markets. For a single Falcons or Braves game there could be dozens of markets, depending on the game and the sportsbook. Large events like the Super Bowl have hundreds of markets. When/if online sports betting goes live in Georgia, expect to have access to betting markets in every major sport worldwide.
The full range of bet types will be determined by the Lottery Corporation, but it is likely that the following bet types (and potentially more) will be available to Georgia bettors should online sports betting be legalized.
- In-game betting
Of course, it remains to be seen which sportsbook operators will open up shop in Georgia when/if sports betting is legalized there. But we can speculate a bit, can’t we? Since neighboring Tennessee is online-only with no retail casinos in the state, many of the same operators may expand to Georgia. Likely candidates include:
Online Banking Options
Georgia sports bettors will have options to choose from when it comes to deposits and withdrawals. Common methods, many of which are specifically referenced in H.B. 86, include:
- Credit / Debit cards – Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly accepted cards within the iGaming industry.
- Electronic bank transfer – This includes transfers through third parties with services like VIP Preferred/ACH eCheck and wire transfers.
- Online mobile payment systems – This would likely include eWallets like PayPal and Skrill.
- Any other method approved by the Corporation – This could include branded Prepaid Play+ cards and PayNearMe which allows users to deposit in-person at participating retail stores like 7-Eleven and CVS.
Why Bet with a Legal Online Sportsbook?
Since sports betting is not legal in Georgia, many Georgians are likely using an offshore sportsbook or local bookie to wager on games. There are many reasons why betting with a legal sportsbook is a better option. Let’s go over a few of the most important.
A legal sportsbook is regulated by the state(s) in which it operates. These states have strict security and safety protocols in place that ensure deposits are secure. You don’t have to worry about whether you will be able to access your funds in a timely manner.
In most states, legal sportsbooks are competing for your business. This means that they often offer generous promotions to entice new customers to sign up for their service. This benefits you, the new bettor. Two popular promotions include a “risk-free bet” that refunds your first wager if it loses, and a deposit match bonus that can be worth hundreds. With legislation mentioning room for at least six operators, there should be plenty of value around.
Every sportsbook operator offers a mobile version of their online service. But being able to securely bet anywhere in the state in which you live or are visiting is something offshore books can’t offer. Legal sportsbooks use geofencing technology to ensure you can only bet in the state in which the sportsbook operates. This ensures that your online account is regulated so that your money is protected.
As mentioned, in most states, legal sportsbooks are competing for your business. This means that they are incentivized to get creative and offer appealing betting options. One book may offer a lower vig while another has more options for in-game betting. Yet another book may be known for its expansive selection of lesser-known sports. You can pick the book that most fits what you are looking for, knowing that your money is secure and the bets you make are reliable and regulated.
Some sportsbooks offer loyalty programs similar to casino rewards structures. Prominent brick-and-mortar brands that offer sports betting, such as Golden Nugget and Hard Rock, are more likely to have them. Linking their online loyalty program to their retail set up is a natural fit. Stand-alone online sportsbooks are less likely to have a loyalty program, though they may offer value in different ways – such as odds boosts.
You can probably reach someone at an offshore casino if you need assistance, but what incentive do they have to resolve your problem? They already have your money and aren’t regulated by any entity here in the United States. Legal sportsbooks have every motivation to help you with any issues related to your account, not least because they are regulated. If you are not satisfied with your customer experience, you can take your bankroll to another legal online sportsbook as easily as choosing to shop at Target instead of Amazon. This is not true with offshore sportsbooks.
When will I be able to bet on sports in Georgia?
Hard to say. If H.B. 86 is passed and signed into law in the spring, the state lottery corporation could finalize its rules and regulations sometime later this year, in which case you could be betting on the Falcons by Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season. If legislation is not passed by the legislature, we will have to wait another year to get a shot at legalization. If that is the way forward, you may not be able to legally bet in Georgia until mid-2022 at the earliest.
Let’s say sports betting is legalized in 2021. What then?
After the rules and regulations are finalized by the lottery corporation, sports betting operators will be able to apply for a license to operate in the state. Once their licenses are approved, they will be open for (virtual) business. You will be able to choose the sportsbook that best fits what you are looking for and will soon be placing wagers from anywhere in the state. Your bets will be both safe and secure, and your deposits and payouts will be protected.
What types of bets will I be able to make?
Most likely, you will be able to bet on almost every sports league in the world. Australian Rules Football? You can bet on it. Cricket? You can bet on it. Darts? You can bet on it. Most large sportsbooks have betting markets available in major sports worldwide. Of course, you can bet on all the American sports (aside from college sports, possibly).