Friday, May 27, 2005

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


At 1:03 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I stumbled on this rendering of the Attorney General's opinion today and couldn't avoid throwing in my "two chips". I own and operate a FREE Texas Hold'Em Tournament service in Shawnee and Midwest City. We play seven days per week, 365 days per year. It's free, it's fun and it's clean.

The Attorney General's opinion has hurt my business and several other's like me as well as the bars and other establishments we conduct business in by refusing to allow us to give prizes. Rep. Chris Benge requested the opinion of behalf of some of my former colleagues. We weren't asking to be allowed to take "Joe's" grocery money. We didn't want to send droves of people to DHS for help because we'd addicted them and charged huge buy-in's to our poker tournaments. NO...all we wanted to do was SHARE THE WEALTH. We'd been offered several large prizes by corporate sponsors such as Miller, Budweiser and Coca Cola. We wanted to give them away to the GENERAL PUBLIC who chooses to play poker with us...FREE OF CHARGE. Interest in this possibility grew our business wonderfully. The Attorney General dashed the hopes of many would-be "Gus Hansen's" or "Doyle Brunson's" by taking that option away. In general, our players can't afford $10,000 or $25,000 buy-ins to the WSOP or the WPT...but they had hoped that by playing often enough and learning the game that through us they just MIGHT have the chance of winning that seat. No more.

I's very difficult to compete with the 85 (or so) casinos in the state. It's hurting all types of establishments from bars and restaurants to movie theater's. We had hoped to "balance the scales" a bit and bump up the entertainment value of playing in a bar or restaurant INSTEAD of a casino every night. I have many friends who've played those casino's, lost money, gone back and lost more, and then come back to play with me. I don't take their money. I provide a FREE service, entertainment AND education for those who want to give the casino's a shot...I only wish I could provide more...FOR FREE.

Thank you.

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