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Old 01-07-2019, 05:19 PM   #1
netmad
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Legality of home poker league

I run a home poker league in Fairfax, Virginia for the last 3 years. I get over 30 players each game. Every game I set aside money for end of the year free roll [about $8K per year]. Also, have a high hand jackpot for over $500.

There is no rake - EVER. Players chip in for food and at the end of the night, they leave donations for the house to cover expenses.

Here are the questions:

1. Can some one (i.e neighbor) call the police? If so, on what basis? [Note: my players are pretty good about not blocking their driveways, etc].

2. Is there anything not proper about my setup for which I should be concerned? I do not want to do anything that could get me or my guests into any kind of trouble.
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Old 01-07-2019, 05:40 PM   #2
dmccoy87
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Re: Legality of home poker league

Donations are where authorities could get you, if they were so inclined.

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Old 01-08-2019, 10:52 AM   #3
netmad
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Re: Legality of home poker league

Is there a way to handle donations that would keep the overall setup appropriate? Also, is there any issue with setting aside money for end of the year pool?
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Old 01-08-2019, 12:04 PM   #4
dmccoy87
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Re: Legality of home poker league

The key is that the host can't make any money other than what he wins at the table. This is why donations can be trouble, because authorities might see them as "Donations" rather than actual donations.

Keeping money in escrow for end of year payout could be construed the same way, since you would have no proof that it is guaranteed to be paid out. I doubt police or any DA is going to spend time going after a legitimate home game, so this is hypothetical. I think if you ditch the donations you will be fine. Just tell them thanks but no thanks, just put it towards a nice bottle of whiskey for next time.

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Old 01-08-2019, 02:15 PM   #5
DrStrange
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Re: Legality of home poker league

You would be far better off spending a bit of money and getting an hour's worth of time from a competent lawyer. Just saying . . . this is the best and only good solution for your questions.

Local and state laws vary. What might be fine here might not be fine where you live.

Number one thing to avoid problems is having a good relationship with your neighbors. Thirty cars on a residential street is noteworthy and potentially annoying. Do everything you can here, it avoids potential future problems.

Of course your neighbors can call the police. They don't need probable cause or a solid legal justification, they just need to be cranky. Thirty cars, people coming and going later at night, noise, litter - - - come on, it is easy to see how a problem could arise.

The police will respond to a call and likely do nothing more than "show the flag" and ask people to quiet down / move along. They get calls about disorderly, noisy parties all the time. But let it happen on an on-going basis and you court trouble.

Let's be clear. A simple home poker game is likely not a target for enforcement in and of itself. Though $8,000 in forfeitable cash might prove tempting for a budget strapped police department. That doesn't mean the game is perfectly legal, just that no one is going to bother with you. Be mindful that gambling laws are often vague and subject to wide interpretation. Lots of ways to technically violate the law.

BUT, if the game creates problems for the neighbors who call the police to complain every couple of months. Well, that might give the police incentive to follow the letter of the law. It wouldn't take much enforcement to get the message across. You can imagine how the players would react to a brief but unhappy interaction with law enforcement.

Which brings us around to the solution. Be a good neighbor. Avoid problems where possible. Be swift to deal with issues. Pay attention.

And again, go spend a hundred bucks and get better legal advice -=- DrStrange
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Old 01-09-2019, 10:04 AM   #6
netmad
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Re: Legality of home poker league

@DrStrange Thanks for your detailed response. Is it possible to have an one-on-one with you? I tried to PM but the forum did not allow me to send you a PM.
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Old 01-09-2019, 01:16 PM   #7
Bene Gesserit
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Re: Legality of home poker league

I have hosted a friday night low stakes, .25-.50 mixed cash game for years. We have less players than you ( less cars)! No rake, only donations of chips, candy, beer, or sodas for everyone is allowed. Kentucky law on "friendly " home games is very clear. No profit for the host except what he can win in the game. Police do not bother these events. Most places in the State they don't bother small rake games either. So find out what your State laws are and follow them as close as you can. Dr. Stange has made a lot of very good points that I agreee totally with. He knows what he is talking about.
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Old 01-09-2019, 04:01 PM   #8
DrStrange
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Re: Legality of home poker league

I think you need 10 posts and a few weeks on the forum to be allowed PM privileges. This keeps spam type accounts from abusing the forums.
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Old 01-10-2019, 06:14 PM   #9
netmad
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Re: Legality of home poker league

Any ideas on where/how to locate a lawyer who can consult on home poker law issues?

I reached out to a few local firms in Virginia (found through findlaw.com) but none of them really had any specialty in this area.

If anyone has ever consulted an attorney on this topic, I'd appreciate a referral.
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Old 01-10-2019, 08:54 PM   #10
DrStrange
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Re: Legality of home poker league

You need a local lawyer. I have several Texas lawyers that have helped research issues for me, but none of them are competent or capable to address issues in Virginia.

I would look for a small generalist firm, maybe even a one man shop. You aren't likely to find a specialist with expertise in this area. I think ideally you get advice from someone who also plays poker and understands how things work,
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Old 01-10-2019, 10:38 PM   #11
Bene Gesserit
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Re: Legality of home poker league

I googled Virginia State Home Poker Law and got a few pages full of articles. Seems that Virginia is a lot like Ky and many other States where friendly non raked home games are common and seldom if ever interferred with by authorities. But you should check out this online information for yourself.
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Old 01-11-2019, 02:12 AM   #12
sw_emigre
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Re: Legality of home poker league

If you want info specific to your region, there is under "Live Poker: Venues and Communities" a section for basically every locale you can imagine. You'd find people more in turn with VA there. glgl
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