South Carolina Moves Closer to Less Crazy-Illegal Poker

Senate advances bill to legalize social home games

by , Jan 26, 2011 | 10:50 am

south carolina poker flag

Don’t Check-Raise Me: A South Carolina law permitting more-good real-money friendly poker appears be on the horizon.

Small-but-big victory for poker players in South Carolina yesterday … with the state’s senate judiciary committee voting 15-6 to debate a bill on the floor that would emphatically legalize poker home games.

The need to revise SC gambling laws came to the fore when players busted in a raid on a private residence in 2006 decided to fight their tickets on the basis that poker was a game of skill, and therefore not in violation of the an 1802 law that may or may not have made playing Texas Hold’em — and Monopoly or Parcheesi for that matter — ticketable misdemeanors. The Poker Players Alliance, in one of their first non-UIGEA undertakings, provided legal assistance in that case, which is currently pending in South Carolina’s supreme court … lower courts having already acknowledged that poker is indeed more a game of skill than chance.

The PPA has since led grassroots efforts in SC to get the current bipartisan bill to the Senate floor, and seems to have engaged the Spartanburg Tea Party’s support. To be honest, I wasn’t sure at first if their “action alert” was a call to push for passage or the opposite. However, the relative ease with which the bill moved through committee suggests Tea Partiers are finally coming around to see that most poker legislation lines up with their stated beliefs.

In addition to permitting home games (owhile forbidding taking a rake from such endeavors), S. 254 provides card players grounds for suing someone welching on a bet, and explicitly spells out the illegality of video poker. Not sure if any of those lines could be (mis?)construed to penalize anyone playing online poker in South Carolina or even just printing out hand histories … not to mention using a poker genie in your neighborhood sit-n-go. But still arguably better than the 209-year-old gambling law it looks to replace.

Read the full bill here, and below for the specific section relevant to poker played in private residences for no rake:

(B) The following activities are not gambling:

(1) bona fide contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance in which awards are made only to entrants or the owners of entries;

(2) bona fide business transactions that are valid under the law of contracts;

(3) games of skill or chance, played between live individuals, where machine or devices are not used or operated, there is no betting of something of value, and there are no awards for cash, prizes, or additional play;

(4) games of cards or dice, where the games are played among natural persons, who are engaged in gambling in a private residence or home and no mechanical or electronic devices or machines, slot machines, or video games of chance are used or incorporated into the games; no person receives any economic benefit other than personal winnings; the host of the game or the owner or lessee of the house does not receive a percentage of the winnings; a bonafide social relationship based on a relationship other than gambling exists among the players; and except for the advantage of skill or luck, the risks of losing or winning are the same for all parties; and

(5) other acts now or hereafter expressly authorized by law.

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