Social gambling is gambling that is not conducted as a business and that involves players who all compete on equal terms.

Is it Illegal to Have a Poker Game with My Friends?

It depends. State laws vary on the issue of whether social gambling is legal or not. In general, as long as your game puts everyone on equal footing and no one person has an unfair advantage, your game will be legal.

What Factors Will Determine Whether My Form of Gambling Is Illegal or Not?

The important factors differ from state to state. However, the following factors typically relate to whether your game is legal or illegal:

  • Where are you playing? Playing a game in your own private home is more likely to be legal than playing a game at a public park, or at a bar or restaurant.
  • Does any player have an advantage?Games in which there are house odds or house income are more likely to be illegal because one player is at an advantage over the others.
  • How high are the stakes? Some states only allow penny ante games where players gamble for mere pennies. Generally, if the stakes are lower, your game is more likely to be legal.
  • What are you betting on? Gambling on a game you are currently playing is often more likely to be legal than placing bets on a future event like a race or a sports game.
  • Are all your players above the age of majority? All players must be above the age of majority in order for your game to be legal. The age of majority is either 18 or 21 depending on your state’s laws.
  • Are you hosting the game or are you a visitor? If social gambling is illegal in your state, the punishments are often more severe for the owner of the house where the game is being held.

If Social Gambling Is Illegal in My State, What Are the Consequences?

The consequences for illegal social gambling differ from state to state. However, most states consider violations of the gambling laws to be misdemeanors. If you are charged with a misdemeanor for gambling, you may have to pay fines, do jail time, or do community service. In some states, you may be accused of illegal gambling, but use the fact that it was social gambling as a defense.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer about My Social Gambling Questions?

If you have questions about the legality of social gambling, you may want to speak to a lawyer experienced in gaming law. An experienced business lawyer will be able to inform you of your states laws regarding gambling, and will be able to advise you about your rights. If you have been charged with gambling illegally, a lawyer can represent you in court and ensure that your rights are protected.