For a state that considers Las Vegas its ninth island, sometimes Hawaii exhibits a pretty low threshold for tolerance of gambling.
We received a letter last week from the president of the Maui Poker Association protesting the arrest of nine people for gambling offenses. The MPA president said the game in question did not violate Hawaii law because it was simply social gaming as defined by statute 712-1231.
Briefly stated, that statute says players are on equal terms; no one receives any payment other than his winnings; no person or company is compensated for supplying drinks, food, lodging or entertainment; it isn't conducted in a corporate or public setting; and the activity isn't bookmaking.
The MPA president went on to say that over the years, lawyers, councilmen, policemen and (gulp) even prosecutors have played in this game. Hmmm . . . one would think those folks would be hesitant to play in an illegal game.
Be that as it may, the fate of the nine charged now lies in the hands of the justice system. One interesting note, though, that may help them . . . a federal judge ruled last week that poker is not gambling . . . it is a skill.
According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein ruled Thursday that a New Yorker had not violated federal anti-gambling law by running Texas Hold 'Em games because poker is not "predominated by chance." That phrase "predominated by chance" is a commonly used legal definition of gambling.
In short, the judge ruled that, unlike games such as roulette, slot machines or blackjack, the outcome in poker is more determined by players' skill than chance.
Skill or luck, it will be interesting to see just what part of the social gaming law was alleged to have been violated by those charged last week. It will either be a learning experience for a lot of casual poker players or an embarrassment to the police.
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