Thursday January 22,2015 : WILL NEBRASKA LEGALISE ONLINE POKER?
New bill seeks to classify poker as a game of skill, thus dodging legal definition of gambling.
Lawmakers in Nebraska are to debate the nature of poker and whether it can be classified as a game of skill following the introduction of a bill to the state legislature by Senator Tyson Larson.
Classification of poker as a game in which skill predominates over luck is a key element in deciding whether the game falls within most legal definitions as constituting the act of gambling.
In Nebraska, all forms of poker are treated as illegal gambling, but Sen. Larson hopes to change that in at least two genres – Draw Poker and Hold´em Poker – which he contends are games predominantly of skill rather than chance.
In Nebraska the test of chance or luck is whether the player has control over the outcome of an event; if he or she does not, then it is regarded as a game of chance – an essential component in the definition of gambling.
Nebraska has particularly fierce anti-poker laws that even prohibit Texas Hold'Em poker tournaments, where participants elsewhere pay an upfront entry and registration fee to play in the hope of winning cash or other prizes.
Larson claims that over $300 million leaves the state in gambling revenues as determined punters take their business out of state, a situation that he wants to see reversed.
Explaining the difference between skill and chance, Sen. Larson told the Lincoln Star Journal newspaper:
“You can be a professional poker player; you cannot be a professional coin flipper. You can lose a poker game on purpose; you can’t lose a coin flip on purpose. You can have the worst hand in poker but be the best player. The math is there; the statistics are there. Poker is a game of skill; it is not a game of chance."
The Senator's bill makes provision for bar owners and other potential operators to be licensed to host poker games that fall within his skill gaming definition. It proposes a 24/7 operating regime with a 5 percent rake on cash games permitted.
State legislators will also consider another proposal – this one affecting the state's constitution – that seeks to dismantle the ban on gambling in Nebraska. Introduced by Senator Paul Schumaker, the amendment has already attracted opposition from other senators who are against any expansion of gambling.
Local political observers have pointed out that Schumaker faces an uphill struggle, bearing in mind that a similar effort by Senator Russ Karpisek met with strong opposition and failed in committee last year.
Sen. Larson's bill faces its first test next week, when a formal hearing in the General Affairs Committee which he chairs has been scheduled.