SC Supreme Court says organized poker illegal - FOX Carolina 21

SC Supreme Court says organized poker illegal

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The seal of the Supreme Court of South Carolina. (File/FOX Carolina) The seal of the Supreme Court of South Carolina. (File/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

It's a tradition that, whether they admit it or not, many people take part in - a game of poker inside of a home.

"There are hundreds of games of Texas Hold 'Em poker being played as a hobby by individuals having a friendly or casual game every night in South Carolina," said lawyer Billy Wilkins.

But one game back in 2006 in Mount Pleasant went too far. It resulted in arrests and a long legal battle that ended Wednesday in a South Carolina Supreme Court decision.

The issue isn't with the games themselves but the money being made and who is making the money.

Wilkins represented the defendants in the case and gave an example where it's illegal.

"If you turn it into a commercial activity - for example, if I were to charge admission to come in and play Texas Hold 'Em poker - that would be used as a house used as a place of gaming," Wilkins said.

Authorities used a law that's been on the state books since 1802, which set out guidelines on gambling. Wilkins said those laws are now outdated and deserve another look.

State Sen. Larry Martin, a Republican from Pickens County, is on the Senate Judiciary Committee and agrees with the decision.

But Martin said he's fearful of what could happen in the future.

"Another case could be brought (in) and bring down the entire statute because of the 3-2 decision and the way they ruled," said Martin.

The ruling, in the most basic terms, allows games of poker to be played in a person's home, as long as the house doesn't charge a cover or take a cut. If there is a profit made on the part of the house, it's considered a house of gambling, and considered illegal.

The dissenting opinion in the case said that the 210-year-old law was and is too vague and could be unconstitutional.

"The ball is in the lap of the legislature," said Wilkins.

Martin said he wants to fix that, but also said the process will take some time and a lot of work.

"Anytime we address gambling statutes, if we aren't very careful, we can create another problem that we didn't anticipate or another loophole that permits gaming or gambling," Martin said.

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