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Legislature Proposes Updates to South Carolina Gaming Laws

Dec 2, 2010
Author: Michael Mancini
Legislature Proposes Updates to South Carolina Gaming Laws

In a move designed to show that their state is not interested in prosecuting home game poker players, state legislators in South Carolina have introduced a measure that would update gambling laws and give friendly poker games defenses against overzealous police or prosecutors.

The measures come in the wake of a case that is currently in the South Carolina Supreme Court. The case involves a raid on a home poker game in Mount Pleasant in 2006. While a circuit judge earlier ruled Texas Hold’em to be a legal game as skill was a deciding factor, the state has appealed that ruling.

However, the state felt it was important to point out during the court proceedings that they were interested in prosecuting the case because of the large, semi-public nature of the game, and not because they were against poker games in general. With that in mind, legislators have put forth a potential update to state gaming laws that would essentially protect a private home game, while still leaving larger, more organized games open to prosecution.

The key part of the measure would be affirmative defenses that home game poker players could use to defend their participation in such games. As long as the game is played in a private setting, no money is exchanged outside of the winnings of each player, each player has an equal chance of winning or losing (allowing for factors of luck and skill), and a “bona fide social relationship existed among all participants,” a game would be considered legal.

State Senator Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) says that the reforms are necessary in order to reflect the rights of South Carolina’s citizens.

"The state's got no business trying to regulate what card games you play inside your home,” McConnell said.  

Other portions of the law would help allow charities to run fundraisers that involved raffles or other forms of gambling without running afoul of gaming laws. Other regulations would allow players to play any game of luck or skill as long as nothing of value was being wagered. A literal interpretation of South Carolina’s current gaming laws – which were written more than a century ago – would outlaw any game using dice or cards, regardless of any other factors.

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