Favorite

Risky business 

An outfit called the National Poker Challenge, which runs poker leagues in Memphis and Portland, was planning to start holding poker games in a room on Rodney Parham Road in mid-August until city officials stepped in.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter said the game would run afoul of anti-gambling laws. He said state law prohibits the risking of money on a contest or chance, where one person must be the loser and the other a winner.

National Poker Challenge hopes to disabuse Carpenter of the notion that its games constitute gambling. You play for free. Yes, there are cash prizes, apparently generated by $100 “subscription” fees to be able to log into the company's website to reserve seats for games and track player statistics. That's not dissimilar, I'd note, to paying a fee to enter a road race, golf tournament or bass classic with a cash prize.

There is at least one obvious contradiction to the assertion by Little Rock authorities, including the police, that this enterprise amounts to gambling and is thus illegal.

Gambling in Arkansas is prohibited by the Arkansas Constitution, with two exceptions — pari-mutuel wagering on horses and dogs and, now, “charity” bingo.

But what about the video poker and blackjack machines that are now merrily jingling at Oaklawn and Southland Parks? (Southland also offers electronically dealt poker and blackjack games and Oaklawn is making preparations to add these electronic card tables, too.)

The legislature has decreed, essentially, that “electronic games of skill” are not gambling. It has permitted them at Oaklawn and Southland. A group filed a lawsuit challenging the local option election procedures in the law, but, curiously, did not challenge the baseline presumption that poker and blackjack do not amount to unconstitutional gambling.

Of course poker and blackjack are gambling, each with strong elements of chance, but not purely chance. Skill can indeed increase your odds of winning — more so at the table than at the machines, which will take 10 percent or so of your money over time as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow.

It's hardly surprising that entrepreneurs are seeking a legal toehold in the popular poker business. The state legislature has said poker is a game of skill. Why should the skillful be limited to practicing at Oaklawn and Southland? Furthermore, no money appears to be at risk in the games staged by the National Poker Challenge. That would seem to put players out of reach of even the state's ancient anti-card playing statute. It says:

“If any person is guilty of betting any money or any valuable thing on any game of brag, bluff, poker, seven-up, three-up, twenty-one, vingt-et-un, thirteen cards, the odd trick, forty-five, whist, or at any other game of cards, known by any name now known to the law, or with any other or new name or without any name, upon conviction he or she shall be fined in any sum not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than twenty-five dollars ($25.00).”

Money is being bet at Oaklawn and Southland on 21 and poker and other games, such as the famous “lock and roll” machines. But the legislature has specifically legalized electronic games in these locations.

As ever, the law is an ass. It can be whipped and cajoled and pushed to carry whatever burden is required, particularly when the handler carries a fat wallet. There's a simple solution for the National Poker League. Hire a lobbyist.

Favorite

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Suddenly, Rutledge is interested in state's terrible landlord-tenant law

    Crocodile tears from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on the state's terrible landlord-tenant law. Given a chance to do something meaningful about it before, however, she didn't.
    • Jul 16, 2018
  • Reports filed on casino amendment

    Initial financial reports have been filed by groups pushing a casino expansion amendment and the major financial force so far is the Quapaw tribe of Oklahoma, which is in the casino business. Another Oklahoma tribe, a gambling machine organization and a Mississippi gambling enterprise also are listed.
    • Jul 16, 2018
  • Re Trump: The Arkies say......

    Trump getting trashed for cozying up to Putin, from Fox News to John McCain. Now Arkansans are being heard from. Example from Sen. John Boozman: "Russia is not our friend."
    • Jul 16, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Let's vote

    The potential for exciting November elections grew last week with filing of petitions for three ballot initiatives to add to two already cleared by the legislature.
    • Jul 12, 2018
  • Corrupt Arkansas

    Arkansas jail blotters last week added a couple more names of so-called public servants.

    • Jul 5, 2018
  • Who's coming for dinner?

    Thousands of children, stripped from their families at the border, remain hostage to a U.S. government using them to coerce illegal-entry guilty pleas from their parents. The U.S. wants to make criminals of many seeking legal asylum.
    • Jun 28, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Let's vote

    • And while we're at it lets get a vouchers for private schools initiative on the…

    • on July 14, 2018
  • Re: Punishing the poor

    • Then maybe the congress will give up on the unsustainable socialized medical insurance fiasco that…

    • on July 14, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation