General Question

girlofscience's avatar

Is unregulated gambling actually illegal?

Asked by girlofscience (7475 points ) July 20th, 2009

Last night, six friends and I gathered for a friendly game of poker. We each put in $5, and the winner took home $35.

Since none of us has a gambling license, is this behavior illegal? If so, why?

Furthermore, what would have happened in this hypothetical situation: Say, when we got pizza delivery, the Domino’s guy overheard us playing poker and discussing the money in the pot. He, a staunch anti-gambling advocate, was so outraged by this that he called the police. When the police knocked on the door, we let them in, and they observed the poker game and the cash on the table.

What would happen? And what could happen? I’d hope that no reasonable police officer would waste his/her time busting up a friendly game of poker, but technically, could we have gotten in trouble for this? Could we have all been arrested for betting $5 in an unregulated gambling setting? If so, what are the possible consequences?

I feel like any judge would laugh when seven upstanding members of society entered the courtroom, having been charged with betting $5 on a game of poker…

But I’m just interested to know the actual laws surrounding this type of behavior, and I’ve had difficulty finding the specifics online.

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17 Answers

SirBailey's avatar

Technically, I think it IS. You can certainly get fired from a job if you did that. But for police to come in for one five dollar game, they can but I doubt they will unless you were disturbing someone. Gambling is gambling, whether you bet $5 or $50,000.

girlofscience's avatar

@SirBailey: Crazy. What is the reason behind something like this being illegal? Granted, there are tons of things that are illegal that shouldn’t be (in my opinion), but still, this seems pretty innocuous. I’ve played $5 games of poker in similar settings more times than I can count, and nothing negative has ever come out of them.

And the seven of us (minus my boyfriend) are all coworkers. There is absolutely no way we would have gotten fired from our job for playing poker. In fact, I am certain some of our superiors would have loved to join in the game if they were aware of it.

Do you have any idea what type of penalties could result from something like this?

(This is all out of curiosity… I’m definitely not going to stop playing poker because of any stupid laws; I was simply wondering.)

Lightlyseared's avatar

I think it probably depends on which state you live in. For example in Arizona “social gambling” is legal therefore your home poker game would be OK. California seem to be a bit tougher on home gambling and you’d probably be in trouble.

This page goes into a some detail on it.

girlofscience's avatar

@Lightlyseared: Thanks for the link! (That’s what I was missing when I was trying to google, ”home” poker; I was finding too much info on online poker.)

Unfortunately, my state (NC) is not there, but I’m searching.

This is so strange. The Oklahoma laws are absurd. The two people whose house it was could be fined $2000 and spend 10 years in a state prison, and the rest of us could be fined $100 and spend 10 days in county jail—LOL!

SirBailey's avatar

@girlofscience , obviously, if employees are gambling for money on the job and the bosses like it, then no one gets fired. But it IS gambling. The site @lightlyseared linked to states: “Most home gambling laws were created for 2 reasons: to protect citizens from developing dangerous gambling habits as a results of easy access to gambling establishments and to keep citizens from profiting by running a gambling establishment.”

It goes on to say (about home gambling games) “although they are breaking the letter of the law, they are abiding by the spirit of the law”.

@Lightlyseared , that site is a home poker game site. I’d be leery of what they say about how legal things are.

girlofscience's avatar

@SirBailey: We were not gambling for money on the job!! Haha… This was a Sunday night, and we are Monday-Friday people. That would be ridiculous to bust out a game of poker in the lab…

fireside's avatar

Here’s the NC state law:

ยง 14–292.Gambling.

Except as provided in Chapter 18C of the General Statutes or in Part 2 of this Article, any person or organization that operates any game of chance or any person who plays at or bets on any game of chance at which any money, property or other thing of value is bet, whether the same be in stake or not, shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. [Editor’s note: Chapter 18C authorizes the North Carolina state lottery and Part 2 authorizes various aspects of charity gaming.

From another site:
A Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina usually comes with a fine and/or jail time. It is our understanding that currently it is up to 6 months in jail and or up to a $500 fine, if you were cited for a class 2 misdemeanor though you could contact the court or a lawyer to find out for certain.

SirBailey's avatar

@girlofscience , I was addressing your “There is absolutely no way we would have gotten fired from our job for playing poker. In fact, I am certain some of our superiors would have loved to join in the game if they were aware of it.”

I took it to mean that IF you gambled on the job and the bosses saw it, they’d want to play too.

girlofscience's avatar

@SirBailey: Yeah, but I didn’t mean to imply that the game occurred at work.

missingbite's avatar

The key is to not let the police in without a warrant. All they can do is ask to enter and unless they have a damn good reason, without a warrant they can’t.

jfos's avatar

@missingbite In which time a game of poker could easily be considered non-threatening by removing the cash from the situation.

SirBailey's avatar

@missingbite, I would think that would be a red flag to the police.

Unless you people are noisy or disturb the neighbors in some way, I would NOT sweat this. If, however, the game gets bigger and bigger such that more and more people come and you get noisy or their cars block driveways, then you might have problems.

missingbite's avatar

@jfos, I’m not sure what you mean.

@SirBailey, It really doesn’t matter if it raises a red flag. In America we have rights and the police don’t have the right to enter your home without a warrant. They can go get one, but unless you are doing something worse than a poker game, it’s going to be tough. Even if cars are blocking the road and you are being noisy, they can’t enter your home. They have to be invited unless they suspect someone is in danger and they can prove probable cause. The original question was can you get in trouble for 7 people playing poker. Simply tell the police the Domino’s guy is crazy and politely tell the police to pound sand. You never know what an officer in a bad mood may do if he or she comes in and sees money sitting on a poker table.

jfos's avatar

@missingbite By the time the police had a warrant, the players would have had plenty of time to clear off the table/money/etc.

I was just backing you up.

missingbite's avatar

@jfos I got you! You are exactly right. My friends have a poker game once a month and the stakes are a lot higher than a $5 buy in. I too doubt that the police would even care if they did find a game going on.

soumenpaul's avatar

first of all gambling is illegal whether it is regulated or unregulated.

Still it is not fully legalized. You cann’t gamble in most of the states in America. Probably it depends upon on which state you live in…...........

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