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Old 10-30-2012, 11:11 AM   #1
Schmendr1ck
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Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

And in a surprisingly not-related-to-the-election boneheaded move, state and local authorities in Largo, Florida (near Tampa) conducted a raid on a free bar poker game. Card Player and The Tampa Bay Times reported on it (the Times article is better and more thorough IMO).

Nutz Poker League operates like most bar poker leagues around the country. There is no charge to play, but players can earn free add-ons with food & drink purchases. The league makes money by getting a cut of food & drink sales, and prizes are typically gift certificates, gift cards, and points toward entries into monthly and annual tourneys with larger prizes.

So if you aren't risking any money, isn't this type of game legal? I thought so, but the Assistant State Attorney behind the raid disagrees:

Quote:
Jail affidavits cited Chapter 849 of Florida Statutes, which prohibits any gaming operation that "permits any person to play for money or other valuable thing at any game."

The big question is whether this type of free poker qualifies as illegal gambling. Generally, yes, said Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Joshua Riba.

"If they are playing cards, and they have an opportunity to win something of value, then they are technically violating this particular gambling statute," he said.

...

A wager does not factor in at all: "The statute itself does not require anybody to ante in," Riba said.
While a few have died off in the past couple of years, there are still many free poker leagues that operate throughout Florida. Given that the operators of this league and the owner of the restaurant are being charged with felony gambling, I'm concerned that this is going to have a chilling effect on these free games throughout Florida.

The good news is that Nutz Poker League is fighting, and after a brief hiatus they are continuing to operate games in the area. And the incoming State speaker has taken notice, too:

Quote:
Poker laws, Dunbar says, aren't well understood or well enforced. And there is no dedicated state agency to help local law enforcement decipher confusing state gambling laws.

"That criticism," said state Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, "lays on our shoulders."

Weatherford, the incoming House speaker, wants to re-examine the state's ambiguous gambling laws, adding, "there needs to be what I've called an adult conversation of what gaming should look like in the state."
So if there's a silver lining here, it's that we may finally get a badly-needed overhaul of Florida's antiquated home & bar poker laws.
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Old 10-30-2012, 11:28 AM   #2
eneely
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

So will they be raiding McDonalds next, and every other outfit that offers prizes via a game?
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Old 10-30-2012, 11:35 AM   #3
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

There's a semi-active thread in NVG and a less active thread in PL about these events, but thank you for posting about it here as some in this section don't travel there and they need to know about it.

Very nice summary of the situation.
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Old 10-30-2012, 12:17 PM   #4
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

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Originally Posted by eneely View Post
So will they be raiding McDonalds next, and every other outfit that offers prizes via a game?
No. State law permits bingo, raffles, and sweepstakes like McDonald's Monopoly.

And since a few retirees got busted for playing nickel poker about 30 years ago, the law gives explicit permission for very small stakes home poker. But the "penny-ante law" is overly strict, and the allowed stakes are ridiculously low. Even my $10 weekly NLHE tourney is arguably illegal.
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Old 10-30-2012, 12:26 PM   #5
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

Two likely suspects: 1 A few total asshats who are trying to get attention for political "benefits" (likely to backfire)

2 Someone benefiting financially somehow (always a reason)

One unlikely suspect: Something actully going on to justify "some" action by law enforcement , but certainly NOT this
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Old 10-30-2012, 12:45 PM   #6
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

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Originally Posted by Doc T River View Post
There's a semi-active thread in NVG and a less active thread in PL about these events, but thank you for posting about it here as some in this section don't travel there and they need to know about it.

Very nice summary of the situation.
Thanks. I probably should have checked there before posting but didn't. Like you said, a lot of us don't get outside HP much.

Links for the lazy: NVG thread and PL thread.
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Old 10-30-2012, 01:38 PM   #7
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bene Gesserit View Post
Two likely suspects: 1 A few total asshats who are trying to get attention for political "benefits" (likely to backfire)

2 Someone benefiting financially somehow (always a reason)

One unlikely suspect: Something actully going on to justify "some" action by law enforcement , but certainly NOT this
My guess is 2. The casino/card rooms were complaining about the competition.
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Old 10-30-2012, 01:58 PM   #8
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

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Originally Posted by Schmendr1ck View Post
No. State law permits bingo, raffles, and sweepstakes like McDonald's Monopoly.

And since a few retirees got busted for playing nickel poker about 30 years ago, the law gives explicit permission for very small stakes home poker. But the "penny-ante law" is overly strict, and the allowed stakes are ridiculously low. Even my $10 weekly NLHE tourney is arguably illegal.
Well, my question was a bit rhetorical. Just to point out how illogical these laws are. Pieces of paper with clubs and spades on them: bad. Pieces of paper with Monopoly theme: good.
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Old 10-30-2012, 02:08 PM   #9
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

to be fair, mcdonalds has a team of lawyers go through the details of sweepstakes laws to dot the i's and cross t's just right to conform to the rules (at least, I assume they do), whereas the bar league probably couldn't afford that kind of overhead.


as I posted in the legislation thread, this sounds like a fine example of the cops and prosecutors using their authority as an old-fashioned shakedown racket, probably partly for the benefit of someone's buddy who own the bar up the street.
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Old 10-30-2012, 02:29 PM   #10
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

I'm just hoping no one in the Atlanta area starts getting similar ideas. While the bar like for which I'm a TD doesn't require to buy anything, the proliferation of free rolls in our tournaments makes me wonder how far we're moving over into a grey area where someone could take advantage of it.

I do agree with some of the speculation in other threads regarding the possibility the poker rooms and Indian Casinos are pushing this due to perceived competition. However, I think they're idiotic if that's how the few it. Bar poker is a gateway experience for many players. It's a way to learn to play the game without having to risk you're own money. One of the things the owners of the league up here stress is the fact we have to get new players because the older ones "graduate" to playing real money games instead of sticking with bar poker.

At the end of the day, though, the cops and DAs should have something better to do with their time than this. All of this, of course, assuming there was not something shadier going on with this particular league and/or establishment.
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Old 10-30-2012, 03:27 PM   #11
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

Although I played my first hand of hold'em in Vegas, I cut my teeth on these free leagues and the experience was definitely a gateway for me to fun times.

Last edited by Doc T River; 10-30-2012 at 03:28 PM. Reason: Some good food and some good people
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Old 11-04-2012, 06:00 PM   #12
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

If this is illegal, how is Best Bet in Jacksonville legal or any other card room in FL?
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Old 11-04-2012, 08:07 PM   #13
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

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Originally Posted by Schmendr1ck View Post
No. State law permits .
... anything that doesn't compete, somehow, with their own gambling cash cows.

Hypocracy, thy name is state gambling laws.
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Old 11-05-2012, 09:48 AM   #14
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

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Originally Posted by melnor View Post
If this is illegal, how is Best Bet in Jacksonville legal or any other card room in FL?
Because state law permits it.

You guys are lucky to have a home game exemption, crappy though it may be, as those in my state don't even have that. When we got casinos, the part of existing state law allowing home games got removed.
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Old 11-05-2012, 12:23 PM   #15
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

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Originally Posted by Doc T River View Post
Because state law permits it.

You guys are lucky to have a home game exemption, crappy though it may be, as those in my state don't even have that. When we got casinos, the part of existing state law allowing home games got removed.
What State? Social gaming now a felony?? LOL
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Old 11-05-2012, 12:35 PM   #16
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

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Originally Posted by melnor View Post
If this is illegal, how is Best Bet in Jacksonville legal or any other card room in FL?
Florida law allows any licensed pari-mutuel facility to have a poker room (subject to local approval).
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Old 11-05-2012, 12:38 PM   #17
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

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Originally Posted by Doc T River View Post
You guys are lucky to have a home game exemption, crappy though it may be, as those in my state don't even have that. When we got casinos, the part of existing state law allowing home games got removed.
While we do have a home game exception, the vast majority of home games are probably illegal because of the way the exception is written. I'd argue that it's worse, because the law is vague enough that some players may think their game is legal, but the authorities may not agree with that interpretation of the law.

Last edited by Schmendr1ck; 11-05-2012 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 11-05-2012, 10:07 PM   #18
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

Yea welcome to Florida....The cops drove by 4 Meth Labs and 3 dead hookers to bust a friendly poker game in a Bar League. lol!
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Old 11-06-2012, 08:58 AM   #19
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

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Originally Posted by Bene Gesserit View Post
What State? Social gaming now a felony?? LOL
I don't know what level of crime the authorities in my state would consider it to be.

As soon as I find out today who my state level people are, I'm going to go back to campaigning for the allowance to be put back in.
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Old 11-19-2012, 07:18 PM   #20
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Re: Free bar poker league raided in Tampa

One of the members of our Salt Lake Poker Community, who moved to Florida a number of months ago, was actually playing at the game that was "busted". He had recently gotten married and brought his new wife along with the goal of introducing her to poker and hopefully getting her interested and maybe even hooked on the game.

We are recording an interview with him, on the podcast whose name shall not be spoken, this week. (Yes we are still pumping them out every week)

The episode will be released next Saturday, the 24th.
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