What are options for Georgia sports gamblers under current laws?

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina is the closest betting destination to Georgia. Even as more states move forward with legalized gambling, it remains a complex issue in Georgia. (HANDOUT)

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Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina is the closest betting destination to Georgia. Even as more states move forward with legalized gambling, it remains a complex issue in Georgia. (HANDOUT)

Life still isn’t easy enough for sports bettors in Georgia, but when football season rolls around and one gets the itch, there are a few legal workarounds.

Go to North Carolina, another surrounding state, or even Las Vegas, where there is legalized sports gambling.

Play daily fantasy sports.

Play the lottery.

These perhaps are not the answers most Georgians seek, especially those who choose to step outside the legal limits.

Even as more states move forward with legalized gambling, it remains a complex issue in Georgia. State lawmakers have proposed different sports gambling bills in recent years, the most recent failure coming in April.

Despite House Speaker David Ralston proclaiming there was an “appetite” to address the topic in January, SB 142 wasn’t voted on during the Georgia Legislature’s session. The proposed bill would have legalized 18 online Georgia sportsbooks.

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Comparing Georgia to other gambling states

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Comparing Georgia to other gambling states

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Combined ShapeCaption
Comparing Georgia to other gambling states

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Many were disappointed in that development, including Braves CEO Derek Schiller. The Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Atlanta United have made it clear that they want Georgia to join other states in legalizing forms of sports betting. That would, of course, provide the teams with additional revenue streams.

“We worked closely with a bunch of the different constituencies involved in trying to put together a framework for a bill that we thought would work, and we ultimately couldn’t even get that bill voted on,” Schiller said at the time.

Until the legal situation changes, which wouldn’t be possible until 2023 at the earliest, bettors are forced to find alternatives. One is daily fantasy sports, an area in which Georgia lacks regulations, meaning Georgians can use online sites, including FanDuel, Yahoo Fantasy and DraftKings.

PrizePicks, founded in Atlanta five years ago and headquartered in Buckhead, is one of those outlets. Gaining immense popularity in recent years, PrizePicks focuses on over/unders, where the bettor would wager on, for example, Steph Curry going over or under a total of 30.5 points for an individual game.

“For a game to be considered a fantasy contest, it must involve multiple players from multiple teams in a statistic accumulation,” PrizePicks CEO Adam Wexler said. “We like to think of (PrizePicks) as the simplest form of daily fantasy. … We have focused on one particular format while everyone else is kind of doing a variety.”

PrizePicks is licensed in eligible states, but its home base falls in the gray area. PrizePicks, which has partnered with the Braves, Falcons and Ghost Gaming (eSports) in recent years, is among the companies lobbying for legalization in Georgia.

“Georgia happens to be one of those states that never got around to doing fantasy sports-specific laws,” Wexler said. “So we’re actually very, very involved with helping try to get those through in particular. But in the meantime, we operate under the skill-base gaming laws.

“We were hopeful (Georgia would legalize sports betting) because we want a regulated environment, consumer protections, like everyone else. We were hoping that in conjunction with the passing of sports betting law, that there was going to be a portion of that that was going to be dedicated to defining fantasy sports in the state of Georgia and kind of what’s permissible and whatnot.”

Daily fantasy sports sites are a clear online opportunity for Georgia gamblers, but for those seeking retail betting, the options are slim.

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THE RISE OF MOBILE SPORTS BETTING Mobile wagering has become the preferred method of sports gamblers as wagers increased 20-fold from the time the Supreme Court legalized sports gambling in 2018. Revenue from mobile gambling overtook that of retail betting in late 2019, and the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 also gave an extra boost to mobile. In June 2018, gamblers wagered $310 million for the month, and by October 2021, the monthly total revenue for sports betting ballooned to $7.1 billion, with $6 billion in bets being placed online.

Credit: ArLuther Lee

THE RISE OF MOBILE SPORTS BETTING
Mobile wagering has become the preferred method of sports gamblers as wagers increased 20-fold from the time the Supreme Court legalized sports gambling in 2018. Revenue from mobile gambling overtook that of retail betting in late 2019, and the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 also gave an extra boost to mobile. In June 2018, gamblers wagered $310 million for the month, and by October 2021, the monthly total revenue for sports betting ballooned to $7.1 billion, with $6 billion in bets being placed online.

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Combined ShapeCaption
THE RISE OF MOBILE SPORTS BETTING Mobile wagering has become the preferred method of sports gamblers as wagers increased 20-fold from the time the Supreme Court legalized sports gambling in 2018. Revenue from mobile gambling overtook that of retail betting in late 2019, and the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 also gave an extra boost to mobile. In June 2018, gamblers wagered $310 million for the month, and by October 2021, the monthly total revenue for sports betting ballooned to $7.1 billion, with $6 billion in bets being placed online.

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Georgia gamblers can trek to North Carolina, where there are two Caesars sportsbooks at tribal casinos owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel is in Murphy, just over two hours from Atlanta; Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort is in Cherokee, just under three hours from Atlanta. They’re the only two legal sportsbooks in North Carolina (which does, however, appear to be moving toward legalized mobile sports betting). That’s a logical avenue for gamblers to bet on (or against) the Falcons and Bulldogs when September comes around – weekend trips to North Carolina will be popular.

As for other bordering states, Tennessee has about 10 legal online sportsbooks but isn’t close to legalizing retail gambling. Like Georgia, Alabama is waiting until next year after a proposed bill failed during the legislation process in April. Florida, after multiple failures pushing the process forward and dealing with an ongoing lawsuit, is at least two years from potential change.

South Carolina introduced an online betting bill (HB 5277) that would have given Georgians another option. The bill was proposed to the House Committee on the Judiciary but wasn’t passed by the June 15 deadline. South Carolina won’t have legalized sports betting until 2023, at the earliest, and even that appears to be a longer shot at this point.

Gambling options for Georgians are limited. Some might save their in-person gambling for Las Vegas. Some rely on friends in legal states to bet on their behalf. Daily fantasy sports are the answer for legal online gambling, though that won’t appease those wanting to bet lines. Sites including FanDuel and DraftKings have sportsbooks, but they’re illegal in some states including Georgia. So a fan aspiring to bet the Bulldogs moneyline in the Georgia-Oregon game Sept. 3, for instance, can’t do so through those apps. It should be mentioned that offshore books and black-market betting remain part of the picture, which legalization advocates can cite as further missed revenue opportunities for the state.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey conducted in 2020 showed 64% of Georgians approved of casino gambling in Georgia. Fifty-seven percent said they support legalized betting on sporting events. Support has continued to grow in the past two years as more states reevaluate the topic.

The only legalized form of gambling in Georgia is through the state’s lottery, which funds the HOPE scholarship for college education. It seems possible there eventually will be change – despite the latest bill’s failure, there remains financial motivation for legalization – but Georgia isn’t among the states at the forefront of the movement to legalize sports gambling, which makes means a bit tougher for bettors.