American gambling laws vary from state to state and from game to game. Numerous factors are given weight such as the age of the player and whether the government collects taxes. For card games, such as some poker variations, one more criteria is being weighed into the balance: whether the players can use developed skills to produce a more reliable outcome, or whether – as with slot machines or a lottery – the game relies on blind luck.
Four years ago, about 25 people were arrested at a private residence. Charged with gambling, most pled guilty. Five suspects chose to legally challenge the arrest. After being convicted anyway, Circuit Judge Markley Dennis, who oversaw the appeal, overturned the ruling as he discovered Texas Hold’em is in fact a game of skill. Games of skill are not subject to South Carolina’s antigambling laws.
The prosecutors in this American legal case were not satisfied with the appeals court decision and now this case has been presented to the South Carolina Supreme Court. The Poker Players Alliance sent executive director John Pappas among its representatives to aid in the defense of the alleged gamblers. If successful, according to Pappas, “this would be the highest court to rule that the predominance test applies to poker and skill applies to poker.”
The “huge victory” would entail that South Carolina’s citizens are permitted to enjoy poker in their homes, even while betting money. Moreover, it would set a significant precedent when similar games come before other U.S. courts, even in other states.
It is not clear how a “skill” ruling could affect Online poker in the US. The US does not license online casinos and it is therefore illegal to run an online gambling site in the US. However, if poker is no longer deemed to be gambling, it suggests that websites operated in the US, or at least in South Carolina, could offer this game as a service.
The question of whether poker is a game of skill or luck is neither new nor unique to South Carolina. Earlier this year, the Dutch Court declared poker is a game of skill. On the other hand, the Swiss Supreme Court protected the Swiss Poker Rooms by making a “Luck” Ruling.