Playing poker in your own house.

On TV sometimes, I’ll see a scene where a few guys are playing poker, and then someone will tell them break it up because a friend or relative who’s a cop is coming over, or the said cop gives them a warning that what they’re doing is illegal.

My question is, in states where gambling is illegal, does that extend to private residences? I don’t play myself, but if it’s true, how could that be fair? What argument(s) is/are used to justify it?

What do you mean, “fair?” Gambling is a public morals (and, some say, an economic) crime. Anti-gambling statutes could exempt gambling in private residences if the legislature wanted to; most just don’t. In this view, at least, where the gambling occurs is irrelevant. The more obvious question is what interest the state has in preventing gambling at all. I think you’ve got the question backwards. It should be, “Assuming a state has an anti-gambling statute, why might private residences be exempt from the law?”

I am a little confused by your follow up. To answer your question:

Assuming a state has an anit-gambling statute, why might private residences be exempt from the law?

The answer is they will not be exempt. If you were to attempt to pass this through a state legislature, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible. By the time the gaming interest was done with the bill, a private residence would include a small casino if person lived on the premise at least 361 days a year.

I can think of several legitimate arguments to both sides of the question to what interest the state has in preventing gambling at all.

I personally do not care what a person does with their money. If an impoverished person spends his last bit of milk money on a lottery ticket in the middle of the month, that person is guilty of poor decision making. Chances are this poor decision making carries over to all aspects of said persons life. They won’t be around long to make many other poor decisions.

I realize this statement runs the risk of hijacking the post so let me say that I understand fully the counter argument to this statement about the safety net of the state and federal governments for these people with poor decision making skills.

Perhaps a hyperbole for the gambling argument?

Somewhere my first post got lost and I apoligize for mixing up the first two posts in my reply to the missing post.

This is what I believe to a simplified answer to the OP.

Gambling is legislated by state governments. Most states regulate gaming through some form of a gaming commission. The reason for this is to keep the gaming regulated and “safe”, much like a meat inspector keeps meat safe for the consumer.

In reality however, that states like this quai-government monopoly. If you were to play in your home, in an unregulated environment, the state would not receive money or fees from your game. This would make them unhappy, this would also make the gaming interest unhappy. Normally these folks do not like to be unahppy.

I’m sorry that I apparently confused you guys. Even though jeremynag pretty much answered my question, I’ll clarify.

Confined to a small group of friends, how can the government interfering? I mean, on what grounds? A small group of poker players doesn’t impact the economy or cause bodily harm or property damage. In fact, I can’t think of any public good being served that could justify the police fining or arresting you for playing a game of poker with your friends.

Oops, “how can the government interfearing?” should have read, “how can the government justify interfearing?”

I remember when the police broke up a poker game in a private residence in the neighborhood where I taught. One of the young men tried to run. Naturally he was shot in the back and killed. What could that policeman possibly have been thinking?

Can you offer some examples of state statutes which outlaw private not-for-profit poker games in the privacy of one’s own home? I’ve done a cursory search of Wisconsin statutes and I’m not findiing it (it could be there and I’m just dense). My understanding is that absent a law specifically forbidding it, as long as the game is not being run for profit, there’s no crime. IANAL and IANYAHGPP (I am not yet a home game poker player).

Ooops, shouldn’t that be "how can the government justify interfereing?

This is your Grammar Nazi “Post of the Day”!


Actually, “interfering”. Gaudere would be proud!

Oh dear me.

I think you mean “how can the government justify interfering?”

I think you’re approaching it from the wrong direction. If a state has laws which make gambling illegal, there would have to be a special exemption written to allow private or not-for-profit gambling.

The government lives to interfere in what you do in your home. (I’m only being a little facetious) Most of your private activities take place there (I’m excluding work, where most people seem to accept being regulated by both laws and company policy) and, quite frankly, most people seem to have some degree of meddling interest in making sure others ‘behave sensibly’ even if it -especially if- it doesn’t affect them. Is that a legitimate interest? Not in my book - but it’s reflected in law.

Think of all the laws that regulate specific sex acts between consenting adults [should prostitution be legal in your own home?] even between husband and wife [sodomy, oral sex, etc, in various jurisdictions] or even by yourself alone [masturbation, viewing pornography] It’s hard to get more invasive of privacy than that.

How do they ‘justify’ it? There’s no shortage of rationalizations, but it often comes down to "I don’t do it, and I don’t like the idea of you doing it either’. In fact, it’s often more like ‘I do it, but I don’t like you doing it - or I think people will support me if I decry it’, or ‘if I oppose it, people won’t think I do it’.

Bottom line: the US (to take one example) likes to think that its main value is freedom, but in many ways, it is more puritanical than many other developed nations. I’m not slamming it for that. It’s simply part of the culture. It may also -repeat ‘may’- be simple human nature to try and stop people from doing things that you don’t think ‘aren’t a good idea’. We’ve all been frustrated with people who won’t take our well-meaning advice, even if it doesn’t affect us; often people get upset if people simply do things equally well, but differently. Much of the discussion on the SDMB revolves around invented theories for why doning certain things (or not doing them) is ‘bad’.

Waitaminnit. Where are there such laws? (I am sooooo screwed…)

Wouldn’t these anti-gambling statutes also cross over into office sports pools?? Not run for a profit, winner take all pots.

FWIW, I enter a pot now and then, probably get in on a Super Bowl pot this year. I also play a little penny ante poker (well, a little more than pennies but not car payment sized pots).

Yep, that’s me!! Livin’ on the edge of the law down at the bingo parlor.

This is the line of logic I’m using for my OP:

Here in Oregon, and I’m sure in most of the other states, for a business establishment to serve alcohol, it needs a liquor license. Yet, if I was a beer drinker, and had some friends over at my house, I wouldn’t need a license to give them a beer.

In order to open up a store, you need to get various state and city licenses and permits. Yet, if I want to hold a yard sale, I don’t need to get any licenses or permits myself.

I’d give more examples, but I think you get the point.

Fat Bald Guy

Depends on how the statute is worded. If a statute says that “operating games of chance for profit” is illegal, then hosting a home game is probably not illegal under that statute because the regular Friday night game is not being operated for profit (there is also the argument, successful IIRC in California, that poker is not a “game of chance” as defined in the typical statute). If the host of the Friday night game takes a rake off the pot, then that is operation for profit and is illegal. Statutes are to be construed narrowly. The idea is that the legislature is required to accurately and reasonably describe the behaviour it seeks to regulate or make criminal. Wording is everything.

Taking each example in turn:
Prostitution: The State has the power to regulate commerce. Exchanging sex for money is an act of commerce and within the power of the State to regulate or ban;
Sodomy (which statutes generally include oral sex): The Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v Texas this year that the State has no power to regulate private consensual sodomy;
Masturbation: Please cite a statute which makes masturbation in one’s home illegal. Should any such statute currently exist, Lawrence would make a prosecution unlikely if not unsustainable;
Viewing pornography: Possession of pornographic and even obscene materials (with the exception of child pornography) is protected by the First Amendment.

As regards sodomy, pornography, masturbation, etc.: these laws were on the books, and enforced [though clearly not uniformly], which was the premise of my thesis of “how such laws can be justified”. Apparently, the lawmakers found sufficient justification.

It’s not as irrelevant as you imply: your remark that “the State has the power to regulate commerce” could work as a justification for regulating a poker game if cash changes hands, just as ieasily as it could be used to regulate sex. Your exclusion of child pornography actually supports the point being made, it simply reduces its scope [allowing certain classes and disallowing other classes does not disprove the the government’s predilection; if anything, it tends to support it]

[BTW: one person argued that “I don’t have a license, so I can serve liquor in my home as I wish”. This is false. You don’t need a license, because the law says so. The law could just as equally well say that you can consume it legally, but be jailed for giving it to anyone else, even in your own home. In fact, for some substances, the law says exactly that. Just try serving up your month’s supply of Percocet at your next party with a DEA agent around]

Also INAL, but AFAIK, the First Amendment [“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”] is used to support the right to publish pornography, not view it. AFAIK, the Supreme Court still allows local laws based on "prevailing local standards’ to establish what pornography is licit or illicit to possess or sell, under what circumstances, in each local jurisidiction – just as, even after the repeal of the 18th Amendment [Prohibition], local communities can and do declare themselves ‘dry’ by local law.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling, such laws remain in force in other jurisidictions (Foreign nations and the US military). Perhaps I should have been clearer that the main body of my post applied to government in general.

Here in the US, the UCMJ [Universal Code of Military Justice] prohibits sexual behaviors that are legal for civillians. (Indeed, it’s common for prosecutable offenses to vary between different branches at the same station.) Though the enforcement of such policies is a political hot potato, and a policy of relative non-enforcement is in force, there is a strong stark refusal to remove the laws, and they have never been ruled invalid (merely politically incorrect). If I were seking a case of masturbation (etc.) being prosecuted today, I’d look to military cases first.

Since no explicit Constitutional justification was ever offered to support the implicit assumption that “I can do as I wish in my own home, so long as it doesn’t affect others,” this is not a matter of constitutional law. I was simply pointing out that governments (local and national) find ready justification for laws that are as or more invasive than banning your friendly Friday night poker game.

Perhaps I should have stated more directly that that implicit assumption doesn’t carry much legal weight (or demanded a cite that it did). It can be weighed in deliberations, but you’d really have to stretch to find it in the Constitution. Many people have tried to justify “a man’s home is his castle” using (e.g.) the 3rd and 4th Ammendments, the extrapolated ‘right to privacy’ of Roe v. Wade, and other established law, but thus far, AFAIK, no court has ever upheld any principle that precludes government from making such laws. The government allows itself the right to control commerce or the right to regulate voluntary sharing of legally obtained controlled substances, etc, even inside your house.

I’m not even saying that’s a bad thing.

I think that poker games are allowed unless the house takes a piece out of every pot. At least that’s what I was told when I used to play tons and tons of poker in the hills of Kentucky. If there is a “house” that profits then it is illegal. Otherwise, you should be OK - until someone gets shot. . .

DaLovin’ Dj

I can’t believe the amount of misinformation in this thread. Someone, please, straighten this out. I just don’t have the energy.