Legally Challengeable Poker

by , Sep 10, 2007 | 9:52 am

After much legal sparring and delay, a curious, first-of-its-kind poker room just opened up in Little Rock that publicly challenges the laws — or at least the standing interpretation of them — by running free tournaments that award money prizes. OK, sounds like any legal amateur tourney we’ve got going here … but there’s a catch.

The difference: if you so choose, you can pay $100 a month to be tracked and ranked. Cool! Hmm, is that a legitimate premium service or a cover for a buy-in? Hard to say … I suspect it will be up to the courts to decide. I’m not familiar with the details and nuance of Arkansas gambling laws … but listening to the Little Rock city attorney, I’m not so sure he’s making a strong case, which is probably why the dudes behind Arkansas’ “first ever dedicated poker lounge” came over the top.

Here are the Arkansas statutes, and what seem to be relevant parts:

5-66-112. Card games – Betting.

If any person is guilty of betting any money or any valuable thing on any game of brag, bluff, poker, seven-up, three-up, twenty-one, vingt-et-un, thirteen cards, the odd trick, forty-five, whist, or at any other game of cards, known by any name now known to the law, or with any other or new name or without any name, upon conviction he or she shall be fined in any sum not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than twenty-five dollars ($25.00).

5-66-113. Games of hazard or skill – Betting.

(a) If any person is guilty of betting any money or any valuable thing on any game of hazard or skill, upon conviction he or she shall be fined in any sum not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than twenty-five dollars ($25.00).

The room is affiliated with something called the National Poker Challenge. I dunno, in Dallas we saw every attempt to exploit loopholes by upstart and veteran pokerpreneurs alike ultimately fall flat. Make no mistake, the laws are outdated here in Texas, and thus the loopholes exist. But no one was able to get their operation off the ground strongly enough to assert their legality. Instead the better business model seemed to be run an illegal room until it gets busted, plea not guilty, and have your charges dropped. (Seriously, has anyone been convicted of poker-related charges in Dallas County? By Pokerati’s records — which are around here somewhere — the prosecutors are about 0-for-200.)

Of course looking at the punishments in Arkansas — $10 to $25 — perhaps poker rooms there (and in Texas for that matter) could just work out a deal with the city where players pay their tickets in advance?

4 Comments to “Legally Challengeable Poker

  1. Jen

    “Money is being given for playing cards,” said the attorney. Ummm, no. Money is being given for internet tracking of statistics. Playing cards is free.

    It seems that the NPC has found their loophole. I’m no attorney but… I just hope the NPC can make enough money to stay in business. Principles don’t pay the bills.

  2. DanM

    Maybe so, Jen — seriously, that city att. seems a little off his mark — but does any of that money go into the prize pool? Just playing devil’s advocate. We’ve seen it all before … and if the opposition is motivated enough, they’ll find a way to put a stop to it all.

    here’s some more of him, saying why even free poker is illegal in Arkansas.

    (In Texas, our AG decided ultimately that it can’t be gambling if you risk nothing.)

    What’s disturbing to me is how CLOSE the two sides are on this matter. The city wants a small fine for every occurrence of gambling …

    OK, perhaps the poker people could negotiate for the lower price (ten bucks) on the grounds that they will be delivering results in bulk. So they could run, say, a $200 tourney … and every time, every player, has to pay his $10 juice, er, I mean ticket, to the cop right there. All this would come with the added security that would inherently go along with having uniformed police near the cage.

    Win-Win, no?

  3. Jen

    I see your point but win-win? No. Paying the cops to police your illegal operation is taking us back to the early 20th century. Might as well pay some juice to the mafia, too, so you don’t sleep with the fishes.

    The laws must be changed. There needs to be a collective effort on the part of everyone who wants to see the law changed – from grandmothers who play cards at the kitchen table to real live poker players. Until then, it’s going to be a contentious situation for everyone.

  4. Pokerati | Texas hold’em blog » Blog Archive » National Poker Challenge-D“Alternative” Card Club Shut Down in Arkansas

    […] told you a while back about the National Poker Challenge opening up in Little Rock … on the self-declared, “hey, we are legal!” concept. […]