Attorney General Opinion Addresses Playing Poker for Money
Fans of Texas Holdem poker can't play the game legally in Oklahoma, according to an attorney general's opinion handed down Thursday.
The opinion, which carries the force of law, will likely slow the growth of popular Texas Holdem poker tournaments common in other states and that have been advertised and conducted by taverns, pubs and other commercial establishments across Oklahoma. But the opinion also applies to private poker games played for cash or other things of value.
Attorney General Drew Edmondson said it is up to individual district attorneys throughout the state to decide whether to prosecute violations.
The nine-page opinion by Senior Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader reiterates conclusions found in previous opinions about Oklahoma's gambling laws: "Poker played for money or other representative of value" is illegal. It says Texas Holdem poker tournaments played for money violate both the state's anti-commercial gambling laws and the state's general antigambling laws. Those who sponsor the games are guilty of a felony and players are guilty of misdemeanors.
The only exception is nonhouse-banked card games played in gaming casinos operated by federally recognized Indian tribes that enter into compacts called for in the State-Tribal Gaming Act, the opinion states.
The opinion was requested in October by District Attorney James Boring of Guymon, whose district includes four counties in the Oklahoma Panhandle and northwest Oklahoma. Boring asked whether it was illegal under state law to conduct Texas Holdem tournaments where entrants must pay to play and are eligible to win cash prizes.
A second opinion requested in February by Rep. Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, asked whether free poker games in which players did not pay entry fees but were eligible to win prizes also violate the state's antigambling laws.
The opinion says Oklahoma's antigambling laws prohibit conducting gambling games, including poker, and playing the games for money, property and anything else of value."...The poker tournaments you describe violate the general antigambling provisions...because the participants in the tournament are playing for money," the opinion says, referring to Boring's inquiry. State law specifically prohibits anyone from betting or playing in a prohibited game for money, it says. It also says poker tournaments in which all or part of participants' entry fees are paid back to tournament winners do not fall within an exception in state law that allows for the payment of "purses, prizes or premiums.""A poker tournament in which the players' entry fees are pooled and paid back to the tournament winners involves betting," the opinion states. "...The general antigambling laws make playing poker for money, checks, credits or other representatives of value a crime, and conducting such poker games a crime."
Addressing Benge's question, the opinion states that a free poker game where no fee is paid for entry or acquiring poker chips is paid but is played for a prize "is still poker played for money" and violates state law.
Source: Associated Press