Draconian and antiquated gambling laws that prohibit gambling, and especially poker, in the state of South Carolina could be in for revision as two key bills move out of the legislature committee stage and toward full debate and voting.
Senate Bills 535 and 628 cleared the state legislature's Senate Judiciary Committee late last week and are key to a more enlightened approach to gambling, with particular emphasis on home or social and charity
poker games…and the interesting possibility of introducing the concept of skill in poker, elevating the game above the general definition of "game of chance".
The bills retain tough limits on what should be regarded as acceptable, for example 535 stipulates: “Gambling in a private home where no house player, house bank, or house odds exist and where the house receives no part of any of the money or other thing of value that is risked or wagered in the gambling in the private home is social gambling and is not unlawful.”
Senate bill 628 makes social gambling a competent defence for a charge of "illegal gambling". And it stipulates that games deemed predominately decided by skill are “not unlawful.”
Regarding charity fund raisers, the bill requires the issue of a licence and requires that 90 percent of the cash raised must go directly to the charity identified in advance.
But what makes attempts to update state law most interesting from an industry perspective has been flagged by the Poker Players Alliance as the move to gain acceptance for the concept that poker is a game where skill predominates over chance, therefore removing the game from the "illegal gambling" definition. Recent court rulings in the state have highlighted the need for more clarity in this respect in state law, and this will hopefully flow from a positive acceptance of the proposed legislative changes.
John Ridgeway, the PPA representative in South Carolina, says that following the advance of the two bills last week, poker players in the state have moved closer to a more enlightened system that will allow them to play poker live or online in a social context without worrying about criminal prosecutions launched under 200-year-old laws.
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