South Carolina Supreme Court Hears Poker Case

Washington, DC (October 19, 2010) – In oral arguments presented today before the South Carolina Supreme Court, lawyers for the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) adeptly debunked the supposition that the private residence in which a game of Texas Hold ‘Em was played was a “house of gaming,” while continuing to reinforce, as South Carolina lower courts agreed, that Texas Hold ‘Em is a game based predominantly on skill and therefore does not constitute gambling under state statute. The PPA, the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with more than one million members nationwide and more than 10,000 in South Carolina, has been involved in this case since five South Carolina men were arrested for playing Texas Hold ‘Em in a private residence.

“This is an important case for the rights of individuals in the state of South Carolina. It is ludicrous that in my state playing poker in the privacy of one’s home would be considered a crime. The state’s antiquated laws have created significant ambiguity and we look forward to the Supreme Court providing much needed clarity that ensures South Carolina residents can enjoy a game of Texas Hold ‘Em without fear of violating the law,” said John Ridgeway, SC State Director of the PPA.

In 2008, five individuals were convicted of illegal gambling for playing Texas Hold ‘Em in a private residence. The trial court found that poker is a game of skill and therefore not illegal, but left it to a higher court to decide if state gambling laws were overly vague as they could be used to convict anyone playing poker in their home. In addition to holding that the law was overly broad and vague, the higher court embraced the use of the predominance test, citing the “overwhelming” evidence that skill dominates chance. The South Carolina Attorney General, however, appealed this ruling on the law’s vagueness, taking it to the State Supreme Court today.

“As this case has moved through the state judicial process, it has been encouraging to see each court rule that poker is indeed a game of skill. To be clear, the PPA is not advocating for gaming in South Carolina and this case has nothing to do with casinos or video poker. This case is about the freedom of adults to play a game of skill, like poker, in their own home and that is it,” said John Pappas “South Carolina poker players are fortunate to have two excellent lawyers, former Federal Judge Billy Wilkins and Jeff Phillips, arguing to protect their right to play poker in the state, and we look forward to a ruling in the coming months.”