South Carolina Supreme Court Hears Poker’s Case

PPA attorneys argue personal freedom, private residence AND skill

by , Oct 19, 2010 | 2:49 pm

The PPA speaks out on the South Carolina Supreme Court’s game-of-skill hearing, where they helped provide legal counsel for the five players contesting their misdemeanor illegal gambling convictions.

This case has nothing to do with casinos or video poker.  This case is about the freedom of adults to play a game of skill, like poker, in their own home and that is it.

– John Pappas, Poker Players Alliance

Fair enough. But it does stand to set precedent and interpretation that other states will at least look at upon (finally) recognizing their own old gambling laws may not really work in today’s day and age.

Sure, we all know that poker is a game of skill and therefore Truth is on poker’s side here, but that may not be the deciding factor when all is said and done. Likewise, the private residence argument could ring a bit hollow because we all know the difference between a self-dealt home game and a for-profit poker room.

But regardless, clarity in and of itself could be a worthy end-result, no? Is it legal to host a weekly sit-n-go and take a “rake” for pizza and beer? What about to pay for nice tables and utilities? Professional dealer maybe? Would it make a difference if you operated as a non-profit? And If an undercover cop wins the bad-beat jackpot, do they have make-up in their backing deal with taxpayers?

Obviously, the South Carolina Supreme Court won’t be making such scenario-specific determinations. However … assuming they don’t just kick it back like Kentucky and Washington did (saying essentially, “eh, not our call”) … this court is being asked to decide, ultimately, just how far the government’s reach extends when dealing with a game of skill played for money … and that’s a question powerful people are wrangling with in different jurisdictions all around the world.

If you haven’t already, help Pokerati determine where poker falls on the spectrum of luck vs. skill here, and read below for the PPA’s official take on today’s important poker activity in South Carolina:

South Carolina Supreme Court Hears Poker Case

Washington, DC (October 19, 2010) – In oral arguments presented today before the South Carolina Supreme Court, lawyers for the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) adeptly debunked the supposition that the private residence in which a game of Texas Hold ‘Em was played was a “house of gaming,” while continuing to reinforce, as South Carolina lower courts agreed, that Texas Hold ‘Em is a game based predominantly on skill and therefore does not constitute gambling under state statute.  The PPA, the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with more than one million members nationwide and more than 10,000 in South Carolina, has been involved in this case since five South Carolina men were arrested for playing Texas Hold ‘Em in a private residence.

“This is an important case for the rights of individuals in the state of South Carolina.  It is ludicrous that in my state playing poker in the privacy of one’s home would be considered a crime.  The state’s antiquated laws have created significant ambiguity and we look forward to the Supreme Court providing much needed clarity that ensures South Carolina residents can enjoy a game of Texas Hold ‘Em without fear of violating the law,” said John Ridgeway, SC State Director of the PPA.

In 2008, five individuals were convicted of illegal gambling for playing Texas Hold ‘Em in a private residence. The trial court found that poker is a game of skill and therefore not illegal, but left it to a higher court to decide if state gambling laws were overly vague as they could be used to convict anyone playing poker in their home.  In addition to holding that the law was overly broad and vague, the higher court embraced the use of the predominance test, citing the “overwhelming” evidence that skill dominates chance. The South Carolina Attorney General, however, appealed this ruling on the law’s vagueness, taking it to the State Supreme Court today.

“As this case has moved through the state judicial process, it has been encouraging to see each court rule that poker is indeed a game of skill.  To be clear, the PPA is not advocating for gaming in South Carolina and this case has nothing to do with casinos or video poker.  This case is about the freedom of adults to play a game of skill, like poker, in their own home and that is it,” said John Pappas “South Carolina poker players are fortunate to have two excellent lawyers, former Federal Judge Billy Wilkins and Jeff Phillips, arguing to protect their right to play poker in the state, and we look forward to a ruling in the coming months.”

5 Comments to “South Carolina Supreme Court Hears Poker’s Case ”

  1. CaseJack

    On the surface this seems like a slam dunk for the good guys, but few things in law are really that simple. Does anyone know what the local (SC) sentiment is regarding the likely outcome?

  2. DanM

    i dunno, i tend to agree with grange95 in the previous post, that this case has a lot going against it — definitely not a slam dunk — even if they affirm that poker is a game of skill. but with such a declaratory ruling on game-of-skill, that could be a win for poker even if it’s not a win for the original defendants.

  3. Luke

    I see that you have linked to your previous post where you ask your readers to rank poker games and things like tournament fishing and FOREX trading on a scale of 1-7 from luck to skill. Thing is that it’s not even close to as simple as that and whatever numbers you come up are essentially meaningless. I left a comment on said post but maybe it didn’t make sense, didn’t espouse the right view point or simply seemed like seo spam but I’ll say it one more time. For the great number of people all those endeavors are probably akin to putting $5 on black 20 and spinning the wheel. In poker I believe there is a small group of people, probably less than 5% of the poker playing public that poker is 100% skill. Even as “chance” is involved said skillful players exercise choice in how they deal with “chance” where as the vast majority has no concept of that. Things just happen to them and they are not proactive but rather reactive.

  4. DanM

    luke, i just fished all your comments out of the spam filter. i can tell you are a real person, with some pretty decent stuff to say. do me a favor, however … don’t try to turn your comments into spam by naming yourself things like “live poker” or “bonus codes” or whatever. i’m happy to let commenters include links and get whatever benefit from that, but i can’t go in and change your name every time. so i will be more likely to just let them stay as spam.

    my unsolicited 2 cents — as a guy who has been doing this for 6+ years and was once the PartyPoker’s chief editor for SEO … don’t try to game the system. people never woulda gotten to know me as “danm the pokerati guy” … if i kept insisting on telling them my name was “online poker” or “paris hilton blowjob”.

    fake names or random initials are totally acceptable, but basically, we want real-ish people. spammers are considered one of the lowest rungs of human existence … so don’t be one and we won’t treat you like one. cool? thanks.

    nice to meet you.

  5. CaseJack

    Dan, you wrote:

    “that could be a win for poker even if it’s not a win for the original defendants”

    I agree and I think these 5 are going to have to take one for the team.