• South Carolina Judge Reverses Poker Decision

    25 September 2009


    Five poker players were busted some time ago. Now the Charleston News has this to say:

    It isn’t time to go “all in” just yet, but five poker players busted for gambling in Mount Pleasant three years ago apparently have scored an early appeals win.

    The judge overseeing their case wrote this week he is reversing the outcome of their February trial, essentially tossing out their convictions.

    In a one-page letter, Circuit Judge R. Markley Dennis Jr. said it was likely that the players’ chosen game of “Texas Hold ‘em” — which relies on bluff, bet and card know-how to be successful — would withstand the legal test of being a game of skill versus an illegal game of chance.

    “When faced with the issue, it is my opinion that the S.C. Supreme Court will likely adopt the ‘dominate factor test,’ ” Dennis wrote attorneys from both sides of the case. “Under the dominate factor test, Texas Hold ‘em is not gaming or gambling,” he said.

    Additionally, the judge said a section of the state’s anti-gambling laws, as applied to this case, is ambiguous and “unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.” The municipal court decision “must be reversed,” he said.

    Greenville attorney Jeff Phillips, who represents the five players, said he wanted to limit his comments until Dennis’ signed order is published. But most observers agree the case is far from over and that Dennis’ ruling would have been appealed up the chain, either way.

    The case began in April 2006 when Mount Pleasant police raided a home on Glencoe Street. An estimated two dozen people were cited after authorities discovered two poker tables operating in the home they said was both a for-profit gambling operation and a community nuisance.

    About 20 players opted not to fight the charges, pleading guilty. The others chose to confront the charges in court, eventually being convicted of gambling charges in front of Municipal Court Judge Larry Duffy. After the conviction, they paid misdemeanor ticket fines up to $262.

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