Gaming Law

S.C. Supreme Court Weighs 1802 Gaming Law’s Application to 2006 Poker Bust


A lawyer for South Carolina told the state supreme court this week that an old 1802 state gaming law doesn’t bar Friday night poker games and penny ante games of bridge.

But senior assistant attorney general Sonny Jones argued that the law does apply to five men busted for playing Texas Hold ’Em, according to the Post and Courier, the Associated Press, and the Greenville News in a story reprinted by WLTX.com.

The state law bars any game with cards or dice in “a house used as a place of gaming.” According to the Post and Courier, the old law “is anti-card, anti-dice and outlaws such long-forgotten games as roly-poly, rouge et noir and draughts.”

Jones argued on Tuesday that the law barred the poker game that resulted in arrests in 2006 by Mount Pleasant police. Last year a circuit court judge overturned a local judge’s decision and tossed the convictions, ruling that Texas Hold ’Em was a game of skill, rather than an illegal game of chance.

Jones said the convicted men were operating a house of gaming since the poker game had been advertised on the Internet, was played twice a week, and brought several cars to the neighborhood that clogged the streets. The host also took a cut of the money to pay for snacks, he said.

Arguing for the poker players, former 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William Wilkins said the home where the games took place was primarily a residence rather than a gambling hall. He also talked about the skill needed to play the game.

“Playing Texas Hold ’Em is like bridge,” Wilkins said, according to the AP account. “It is not gaming because it is predominantly a game of skill.”

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Judge Rules Poker Is Game of Skill, But Convicts Five Men for Gambling”

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