Will Crackdown on Illegal Gambling Rings Hurt Georgia Sports Betting Chances?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Oct 13, 2023 12:00 AM
Will Georgia Sports Betting be Impacted by Illegal Gambling?

The state of Georgia has recently cracked down on a handful of illegal gambling activities. While not unusual on its face, the focus does lend itself to a question: How will Georgia sports betting be treated when the state legislature meets in January 2024?

This is not to say the two are directly connected. States look to weed out illegal gambling, period. It’s impossible, of course. But targeting unlicensed practices is common for states both with and without legal sports betting.

In Georgia’s cases, the illegal gambling rings most recently in the news aren’t even portrayed as sports betting operations. Still, the overall sentiment and approach to general gambling is important to the future of sports betting in Georgia. We will explain why shortly, but first, let’s dive into the latest news on illegal gambling in The Peach State.

At Least Three Illegal Gambling Rings in Georgia have Recently Been Shut Down

The first two Georgia illegal gambling operations were shut down to close out the summer. It was apparently a joint effort by a trio of state agencies, including the Georgia State Lottery. Patrick Quinn of Atlanta News First unpacked all of the necessary details:

On Monday, Atlanta Police officials said gambling machines have proven to be a source of escalated disputes, violence and homicides at two southwest Atlanta businesses. Deputy Police Chief Timothy Peek said Atlanta Police, in tandem with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Georgia Lottery, just completed a three-month-long undercover investigation at the Citgo gas station in Adamsville and a convenience store near Summerhill…Peek said police arrested three people as part of an illegal gambling investigation. ‘We sent undercover people over a period of time, to go in, play with their games, to get payouts, which was illegal,’ Peek said.”

The two establishments in question have apparently been running illegal gambling operations for some time. These undercover operations are, according to Quinn, part of a larger operation to crack down on crime in Georgia gas stations

Not long after, towards the end of September, another illegal gambling ring was shut down. The operation resulted in multiple arrests. Here’s the fuller scoop from WALB 10 News:

“Six of seven people wanted on illegal gambling charges were arrested in Tifton, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). GBI units and the Tifton Police Department investigated businesses using Coin Operated Amusement Machines (COAM) where people were receiving cash prizes for winning credits. This reportedly goes against Georgia gambling laws as machine credits should only be redeemed for non-cash prizes like store products. This led to gambling charges and indictments.”

Do Illegal Gambling Rings Impact the State’s Sentiment on the Prospective Legalization of Georgia Sports Betting?

This question cannot be answered with absolute certainty until next year when the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate will meet. But given the overarching resistance to Georgia sports betting in previous years, the state’s focus on winnowing down unsanctioned gaming operations may say a great deal.

At the very least, opponents of Georgia sports gambling will use the rampant use of illegal gaming machines as evidence that wagering in general remains too difficult to regulate and predatory. 

The latter point is most salient. The legalization of sports betting in Georgia could lead to more predatory practices. Advertisements and, depending on state laws, the location of retail sportsbooks often crop up in lower-income areas. 

Regulatory concerns are less of an issue. Indeed, The Peach State would need to dedicate resources to monitoring the licensed Georgia sportsbooks and illegal gaming operations. But the Georgia Lottery and Georgia Bureau are already doing the second. And if anything, the presence of legalized gaming operations offers a safer alternative to people who will participate in illegal Georgia sports betting or gaming.

Are State Officials Collectively Against the Legalization of Sports Betting in Georgia?

Painting any Georgia sports betting efforts as a lost cause goes waaay too far. Various bills have earned legitimate discussion and consideration in years past. The majority support for Georgia sports gambling just hasn’t been there. Yet.

Like many other states without sports betting, Georgia’s entry into the industry is considered a formality. It is a matter of when rather than if. In fact, some Georgia state senators are hopeful sports betting legalization will come in 2024. Multiple polls have also shown that the voting population tends to support some form of legalized gambling.

Furthermore, while online sportsbooks in the United States aren’t currently allowed to operate in The Peach State, they have so far allowed Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) sites to remain active. Though this isn’t necessarily telltale, there are other states that have sought to outlaw DFS options.

Finally, there has been an increasing number of calls to legalize Georgia sports betting from officials over the years. We have seen some turnover in the House and Senate ranks, with a handful of ultra-conservative members being displaced in favor of those who lean more towards the left or center

Does any of this means 2024 will be the year Georgia legalizes sports betting? Not really. This has been a gradual progression. It has not happened all at once. There was plenty of support last year, and proposed measures fell flat. At the bare minimum, however, it seems safe to say the state’s emphasis on shutting down illegal gambling rings will not hurt the chances of 2024 sports betting legalization in The Peach State. 

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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