Digging Deeper: Georgia's gambling laws - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Digging Deeper: Georgia's gambling laws

Fourteen people are accused of illegal gambling following raids on a half dozen businesses in two south Georgia Counties.

Eight in Cairo and another six in Mitchell County.  Investigators say all of the stores were making illegal pay outs on gaming machines.  They seized those machines, cash, and payout sheets.

Law enforcement says illegal gambling has become a big problem in south Georgia. They're finding more and more people paying out on legal gaming machines, which is illegal. So what makes that illegal and Georgia's state run lottery legal, we took it to the experts to find out.

Georgia's gambling laws are about as clear as mud, just ask any lawyer.

"The gambling laws probably have more exceptions than basic rules that apply to them," said Attorney Pete Donaldson.

We've likely all done it, an innocent golf game bet can be illegal. It's all in the public health and morals section of Georgia law.

"Two guys playing golf betting on who's going to come out ahead, by the way I always lose at that, that's gambling, it's illegal, it's a misdemeanor," said Donaldson.

After busts in Colquitt, Mitchell, and Grady Counties this week, we questioned how gaming machines are legal, but pay outs illegal, but the lottery and bingo is legal? Digging deeper we found in Georgia there are different classifications to gambling. Let's take the lottery.

"If it was run by anybody other than the state would be gambling, would be illegal gambling," said Donaldson.

Because it's run by the state it's not. That's also why not-for profit businesses can hold raffles and games of chance like Bingo, the law is different there.

"Bingo's have to be done under a whole set of rules under which the state sets limits as to how it's done and prizes, the amount of prizes and things of that nature," said Donaldson.

Take the fun park for instance, your child can play games of chance and get tickets redeemed for prizes, but if that's done for money it's commercial gambling, a felony.

"It's where someone in an organized fashion for something other than recreation is running a gambling house or gambling place which is what the law calls it," said Donaldson.

That's what those in Camilla and Cairo will be charged with. Attorney's say basically it all comes down to who's doing it and for what purpose. While law enforcement tends not to go after those innocent bets we make, it's still breaking the law.

The state has relaxed gambling laws over the years in Georgia, allowing the lottery.

This year, legislation was proposed that would have allowed betting on horse racing and Special Entertainment zones where gambling would be allowed.  Neither of those bills passed.

Copyright 2011 WALB.  All rights reserved.   

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