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Georgia

As with many states in the Deep South, Georgia doesn’t exactly have a grand gambling tradition. In fact, if you go there today, you won’t find any casinos to play in, and there isn’t even a horse racing industry in the state.

But that doesn’t mean that this situation is bound to stay that way forever. In recent years, there has been a lot of talk among legislators about the possibility of expanding gaming in the state. And one audacious plan would completely revolutionize the state’s gaming industry by allowing for several casinos to be built – perhaps including a mega-resort in Atlanta itself.

Online Gambling Off the Radar

Given the state’s rather tepid approach to gambling in general, it comes as little surprise that online casino sites in Georgia haven’t exactly made waves . While many states have at least vaguely considered regulation of the industry, there hasn’t been much movement on the issue in the Peach State, where even land-based casinos are still unheard of – at least for now.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t play at online casinos in Georgia. Internet betting is alive and well, as the state exists in a sort of grey market situation. Operators are not licensed locally, so instead foreign companies are the only option for players. The good news is there are a variety of reputable and trustworthy sites on offer with slots, table games and pretty much every other casino game around.

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Few Options for Gamblers

The history of gaming in Georgia remains largely unwritten at this point. Traditionally a conservative state, there is no casino-style gaming here, and even horse racing has failed to gain a foothold. The closest thing to a resort experience available is the Emerald Princess cruise ship, which docks in Brunswick and then heads out to sea to allow players to enjoy a variety of casino games.

One of the few exceptions to the general lack of betting in the state is the Georgia Lottery. Established in 1992 to help fund education in the state, the lottery has expanded over the past two decades, offering a multitude games including scratch cards and keno draws, as well as access to multistate drawings like Powerball and Mega Millions.

Expansion on the Horizon?

So far, it might sound like there isn’t much going on in Georgia for gamblers to be excited about. But big changes might be on the way, thanks to new proposals that could see the state transformed into a haven for casinos.

During 2015, a bill made its way through the Georgia State Legislature that would have allowed for up to six casinos to be built in the state. Two of those would have been earmarked for the Atlanta area, while four other regions would have been authorized for one resort each. The legislation did not pass, though it could well come up again in 2016 or beyond. Simply passing a bill would not be enough, however: such an expansion would also have to be approved by voters, as it requires an amendment to the constitution.

The sudden interest in gambling likely comes from two sources. First, there is the same factor that drives such talks in almost every state when it comes up: the potential for a new source of revenue. In this case, lawmakers have said that allowing resort-style gambling destinations could raise as much as $250 million each year for the HOPE Scholarship program, a fund that provides financial assistance to students attending college and who achieved certain academic standards during high school or college.

Beyond need, however, there’s also the fact that some of the world’s largest gaming companies have shown an interest in building in the state. In particular, Atlanta is an attractive destination. Any relatively wealthy and large urban center holds the potential for eye-popping revenues for developers, but Atlanta is an especially promising site thanks to the fact that so many flights come through the city. So far, both MGM and the Las Vegas Sands Corp. have been said to be interested in building in Atlanta if the opportunity arises, with MGM saying they could spend as much as $1 billion on a resort in the city.

The attempt to legalize gambling follows a more modest proposal earlier in the year that would have allowed for betting on horse racing. That bill passed a committee vote, but faces the same hurdles that the more extensive expansion effort will run into: both houses of the legislature will have to approve it with a two-thirds majority, and then a majority of voters would have to also agree to the change in state law. Interestingly, the horse racing bill is designed to allow racing bets over the Internet, rather than actually bringing at-the-track betting to local racecourses.

It is likely that these proposals will get a long look throughout 2016, and this could be a battle that requires plenty of negotiation before something happens – if gaming expansion ever comes at all. With even land-based resorts or other options probably several years from being launched, however, that means that Georgia online gambling regulation is even further off on the horizon. With that in mind, we don’t expect any movement on the Internet front any time soon.

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