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Poker and the Law - Texas

Discussion in 'Home Poker and the LAW' started by CraigT78, Aug 16, 2015.

  1. CraigT78

    CraigT78 Active Member

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    So I have been hosting a regular game with a group of neighborhood guys, mostly dads of the kids in our local school. It has become quite popular and I regularly fill up. I have 2 8 seat tables. So I will get 12 to 16 each time I host. The question is that I ask for a suggested $10 donation to cover my expenses. I provide two types of beer on tap (the good stuff), coffee, a fridge full of soda, a humidor full of cigars, and food (I have a hot dog roller).

    I don't make it mandatory, and nearly everyone throws a $10 or more into the jar. I have two guys who don't drink and bring their own beverages, and they don't usually chip in. The question - is this legal? We usually go through 2 kegs a night (1/6 barrels) and they run me $80 to $110 each, so I am not making a profit. Thoughts?
     
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  2. QuiQuog

    QuiQuog Well-Known Member

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    No, that's not legal. They have to chip in.
    But seriously, 2 kegs? Is anyone able to walk home?
     
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  3. DrStrange

    DrStrange Creativity Alliance
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    The law in Texas is written "poorly". Meaning that a dozen reasonable people could come to different conclusions about what is or isn't legal. I'd say your game is a shade darker grey than mine - either one of us could be at risk but not very likely to happen. The bottom line is the host got something of value from the players (tips/donations/contributions) and that ***might*** not be legal. For that matter just owning a poker table and chips might not be legal either if a court rules such items gambling paraphernalia.

    Keep in mind the statute doesn't say the game has to be profitable to be unlawful. The fact you cover half the cost of hosting is not likely to matter.

    I provide food and drink, accept tips for dinner but don't have a recommended donation. So I get one shade whiter than you, but if some crazy DA decides that what we are doing needs to be stopped (or perhaps one of the players needs a lession) then there might be a problem.

    I have seen a written opinion from the AG's office that said something as trivial as a printed "you won!" certificate constituted a thing of value and rendered the game unlawful. That stopped the local chamber of commerce from hosting a fund raising poker tournament. But I see plenty of other organizations running events that seem plainly to be against the law. So it might not be "legal" in the mind of the AG but that does not mean anyone is really at risk.

    There is a poker room in Austin that operates as a private club with a daily or monthly fee rather than a rake. The operator is "IN YOUR FACE" about the club - IMO plainly inviting the local DA or AG to take their chances in court. He got the local TV station to do a piece on his business. I have been a little surprised nothing happened while the legislature was in session. It has been five months and still no legal action . . . go figure.

    http://austinot.com/texas-card-house-legal-poker-room-in-Austin

    Several lawyers in my game offered advice should we be raided.
    * Don't invite the police in your home without a warrant.
    * If they force their way in (yes they might, could even be a swat team action) don't resist.
    * concealed carry isn't your friend. Advise the officers if someone is armed ASAP. The standard for being shot by the police in a raid is trivially low. Better to debate about your second amendment rights in the local jail than in the back of an ambulance.
    * If they have a warrant, cooperate.
    * Don't talk to the police, ask for a lawyer.
    * Really, don't answer anything or try to make friends with the cops - they aren't your friend in this case.
    * Don't panic. Don't make a deal without legal representation.
    * Don't expect to get your money, chips, poker table back even if you aren't charged. You might, but don't count on it.

    All of this being said, we aren't going to have a problem with the law. It just doesn't happen that way. You might have issues if the police get called for some other reason (like the game disrupts the neighbors late at night.) If the police come for loud and disorderly at 4 am you can see how that might become 'illegal gambling' But other than that - just have fun.

    DrStrange
     
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  4. CraigT78

    CraigT78 Active Member

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    Lol, they are 5 gallon kegs, 70 ish pints each. It's probably closer to 1.5 per game, but I always buy 2 before and end up switching one out.
     
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  5. CraigT78

    CraigT78 Active Member

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    Thanks for the info. I read through the Texas laws and it wasn't black and white. One of my regulars is a criminal defense lawyer and he told me basically the same.....don't even worry about it.
     
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  6. Meddler

    Meddler Well-Known Member
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    That's over 8pints per player. What's the address?
     
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  7. TenPercenter

    TenPercenter Administrator
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    Exactly right. Its a class c misdemeanor to play and class a misdemeanor to host where any person received economic benefit outside the game of chance. Technically even the donation jar make it illegal but you are highly unlikely to have any law enforcement trouble.

    THIS IS IN NO WAY IMPLYING THAT YIU SHOULD.
     
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  8. CraigT78

    CraigT78 Active Member

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    How would the donation jar be any different that 6 guys chipping in $15 prior to the game and splitting a keg? Or pizza? Isn't it all essentially the same thing?
     
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  9. DrStrange

    DrStrange Creativity Alliance
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    It is all shades of grey, all potentially unlawful. "Anything of value" is pretty easy to breach.

    One example: buying a pizza. Did you collect the money at the game? Did it get delivered to the game? Who ate the most? Did the host get leftovers? Did the host get "anything of value"?

    Again, I want to distinguish between 100% certain not to be illegal and being practical. It is damn hard to engage in our hobby in Texas and be 100% certain it is legal. We are all fine from a practical point of view. Home poker games aren't raided. The players don't get arrested. The host doesn't go to jail. But 100% legal? - - good luck with that.

    This isn't different from normal life. I'd be willing to guess most people do things that constitute a felony every month. You don't know you did it. Few if any get charged, but the law is broad and intrusive.

    There aren't many local DAs that are looking to charge you with unlawful gambling for the types of things listed in this thread. Yes it could happen but it doesn't.

    DrStrange
     
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  10. TenPercenter

    TenPercenter Administrator
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    It's not. Tx AG Greg Abbott once said a guy taking buyins for pizza makes that poker game illegal and all present have broken the law. (not his exact words but he use that as an example. A guy raising his hand and says who wants to go in on pizza. That guy just received economic benefit by having a lower cost on pizza that he was likely buying anyway.)
     
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    Last edited: Aug 17, 2015
  11. TexRex

    TexRex Well-Known Member

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    I was following this thread and kind of forgot about it. Everyone has their own way of doing it. I stay as close to "white" as possible.

    I tell guests to bring their own snacks and drinks. A couple of times a year I'll provide punch and a snack. If a guest asks for water or soft drink, I'll provide it, but I won't keep much in soft drinks. I don't provide booze. I don't personally drink booze, but don't object to others bringing it. Since I don't drink, I wouldn't be sure what to get. I don't put out a hat or donation jar, and ask for nothing. The topic doesn't even come up. Even at that, hosting isn't free. I've actually had people leave a tip despite all of that -- and I sure have been surprised. Despite my father telling me to never turn down money and being a lawyer, I have tried to turn that down because I don't expect it, but a couple of people have insisted.

    Most of my guests bring snacks to share from time to time, but I have one or two that do it every time. I don't really expect it. I probably have some who have never brought anything. Our game is pretty much playing poker. Players visit before the game starts if they arrive early, and they visit at our break.

    Sometimes (rarely, but it's happened), some players will get together and order a pizza. However they work it out is their business. I honestly think anything I do would be very hard to prosecute even if a zealous prosecutor wanted to.

    Once a year, at our Main Event, we'll have food (pizza) brought in for the dinner break. Players preferred that to pot luck where some said they'd end up going to buy something, and would feel bad if they forgot. I divide the anticipated cost among players and that's just part of the buy-in fee. We don't count pizza slices. Some eat more than their fair share, and some eat less. I honestly think that would be very hard to prosecute as well since everyone is paying the same. Some entry money is going to food, the rest is returned in prizes paid out at that tournament.

    Some games I go to the host provides food and even drink. I usually take my own drinks only because then I can control what I want without making the host feel they have to get something special for me. At some, they order pizza. They don't formally ask for money. If I'm aware of donations, I'll contribute even if I didn't partake of anything.

    I think any of that would be very hard to prosecute. Leaving a tip to the host might be technically illegal, but that wold be a hard case to make. What jury could convict? A DA doesn't want to lose a case like that. Of course, you don't want to have to defend one either.

    My very best advice -- try not to tick off the local gendarmes. That likely has more to do with whether someone takes action or not than how black/gray/white your run your game.
     
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