The South Carolina courts are now tasked with another gambling decision: is poker a game of skill or a game of chance? A statute written in 1802 declares all forms of gaming illegal (that is, all games with cards and/or dice), regardless if real money is at stake. Rather than stick with the literal interpretation of the law, the current administration weighs a game’s reliance on chance versus skill. In essence, the more skill-based, the more legal it becomes.
Rather than rely on a sliding scale of innocence, South Carolina has historically stated that all gaming is illegal. Only until recently has it started to change its tune, especially given the case where 25 people, several thousands of dollars in cash, a weee bit of marijuana, and the set-up of a poker tournament were discovered during a police raid in 2006. Initially found guilty by a local judge, the decision was later reversed by a circuit court judge who based his decision on the fact that the men were playing Texas Hold’Em, a game the judge considered to be a game of skill.
The case has escalated to the South Caroline Supreme Court as the Attorney General is again appealing the decision, arguing that the guilt lies not in whether or not Texas Hold’Em is a game of skill, but in the fact that the men created a “House of Gaming” when they announced the poker tournament online, charged a cover fee, and had more than 25 participants gather in one place.
We’ll keep coming back to the skill versus chance argument time and time again as courts around the nation and, arguably, above it, battle out how to make online gambling work (or not work) in the framework of our governing bodies. While South Carolina determines its stance, the rest of the country waits for the bigger verdict: whether or not to allow an online “House of Gaming” to promote a game of skill across state, country, and international borders.