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Last Updated Sept. 30, 2007

Introduction

The conclusions in the chart below are primarily based on the texts of the state criminal anti-gambling laws and thus are only educated guesses in many cases.  There is relatively little decided case law on gambling infractions including the conduct of Texas Holdem poker. I suppose this is because of the seemingly prevalent legislative (and law enforcement?) view that such crimes are pretty small potatoes.  I encourage readers of this website to Contact me with corrections, objections and observations.  Before you take any action in reliance on this chart you should get up to date and to the point advice from a local attorney.

The five topics covered on a state-by-state basis in the chart are:

  • Dominant Factor Test Applied:  "Chance" is one of the elements generally required to be present in order for a game to violate a state anti-gambling statute.  Most states have concluded that where the elements of skill, whatever they may be, predominate over the elements of chance, whatever they may be, in determining outcome, then the "chance" element is lacking and the game involved does not violate that state's anti-gambling law.  This question considers whether the state applies this "dominant factor," or predominance, test.

  • Social Gambling Allowed:  The question here is whether playing for money in a purely social context is allowed,.  A "social context" usually means that no player or other person, like a bookie or the host of the game, makes or earns anything other than as, and on an equal footing with, a mere player in the contest or game.
  • Misdemeanor vs. Felony:  What constitutes a "misdemeanor" versus a "felony" is not consistent in all states.  Some states distinguish on the basis of the place of possible incarceration.  That is, possible sentencing to a city or county jail versus sentencing to a state penitentiary defines the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony in some jurisdictions.  Most states, however, draw the distinction based on the term of the possible sentence, with a punishment of one year or less being a misdemeanor and a longer possible sentence defining a felony.  The latter approach in the used in compiling the chart.
  • Simple vs. Aggravated:  The distinction between "simple" and "aggravated" gambling is also one that varies from state to state.  That terminology may not be used in a state's criminal law at all.  It may be phrased as mere "gambling" versus "professional gambling."  It may come into play only based on second or third violations of a given criminal prohibition.  The approach used in compiling the chart is generally based on the presence of professional gambling, which involves those who make money on the contest or game other than as, and on an equal footing with, a mere player.
  • Express Internet Prohibition:  The response to this question goes to whether a state has adopted a specific law criminalizing the offering and/or playing of gambling games offered over the Internet.  The fact that a state has not passed a specific law does not make participation in or offering of gambling over the Internet legal under the laws of that state.  The question is a complex one and is addressed in several of the articles included on this site.
  • Click on the State Name to Jump to its Gambling Statutes
    State Dominant Factor Test Applied Social Gambling Allowed Penalty for Simple Gambling Penalty for Aggravated Gambling Express Internet Prohibition
    Alabama Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Alaska Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
    Arizona No Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
    Arkansas No No Petty Misdemeanor No
    California Effectively, Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Colorado Questionable Yes Petty Misdemeanor No
    Connecticut Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Delaware Questionable Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Dist. of Columbia Yes Probably Felony Felony No
    Florida No $10 Limit (1) Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Georgia Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
    Hawaii Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
    Idaho Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Illinois No No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Yes
    Indiana Yes No Misdemeanor Felony Yes
    Iowa No No(2) Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Kansas Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
    Kentucky Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
    Louisiana No Yes Misdemeanor Felony Yes
    Maine Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
    State Dominant Factor Test Applied Social Gambling Allowed Penalty for Simple Gambling Penalty for Aggravated Gambling Express Internet Prohibition
    Maryland No No Misdemeanor Felony No
    Massachusetts Yes Unclear Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Michigan Yes No (3) Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No (4)
    Minnesota Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Mississippi Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Missouri Yes No Misdemeanor (5) Felony No
    Montana Questionable Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Yes
    Nebraska Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Nevada Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony Yes
    New Hampshire Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
    New Jersey Questionable Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No (6)
    New Mexico Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
    New York Questionsble Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
    North Carolina Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    North Dakota Yes Yes (7) Misdemeanor Felony No
    Ohio Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
    Oklahoma Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
    Oregon Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony Yes
    Pennsylvania Yes Unclear Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Rhode Island Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
    South Carolina Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    South Dakota Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Yes (8)
    Tennessee Questionable No Misdemeanor Felony No
    State Dominant Factor Test Applied Social Gambling Allowed Penalty for Simple Gambling Penalty for Aggravated Gambling Express Internet Prohibition
    Texas Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Utah Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
    Vermont Questionable Fine Only Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Virginia Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
    Washington Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony Yes (9)
    West Virginia Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
    Wisconsin Yes No Misdemeanor Felony Yes
    Wyoming Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
    Footnotes:
    (1)  Florida authorized licensed card rooms to offer poker limits of $2 per bet, with a limit of 3 raises per betting round, effective July 1, 2003.
    (2)  Iowa permits social gambling, but only to the the extent that a player may win or lose no more than $50 or other consideration equivalent thereto in all games and activities at any one time during any period of twenty-four consecutive hours or over that entire period.  See Iowa Code 99B.12(1)(g)
    (3)  Michigan has exceptions for Senior citizens homes and state fairs.
    (4)  In 1999 Michigan adopted SB 562 which added Section 750.145d to the Michigan Compiled laws.  That section made it specifically unlawful to use the Internet to violate certain provisions of Michigan's anti-gambling laws (Mich. Complied Statutes 750.301 through 750.306 and 750.311.)  In 2000 Michigan adopted Public Act 185 which repealed the references in Section 750.145d to those anti-gambling sections.  Thus, Michigan is not a state that has in effect a specific prohibition against using the Internet to make, offer or accept bets over the Internet.
    (5)  Missouri's felony penalty applies only to a "professional gambler" as defined.
    (6)  New Jersey Senate Bill 1013 seeks to clarify definition of illegal gambling to address Internet gambling; void credit card debt incurred through illegal gambling; authorize only the State to recover illegal gambling losses and to outlaw online gambling.  Also introduced in previous legislative session as S2376.  As of July 4, 2005, S1013 has not been reported out of the New Jersey Senate Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.
    (7)  North Dakota has a limitation of $25 per individual hand, game or event.  Betting over $25 is an infraction and it becomes a misdemeanor when the amount exceeds $500.
    (8)  South Dakota's prohibition applies to those in the "gambling business."
    (9)  Prohibition becomes effective June 7, 2006.