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Q: Charity Poker Tournament ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Charity Poker Tournament
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: coolhand-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 29 Jun 2005 14:57 PDT
Expires: 29 Jul 2005 14:57 PDT
Question ID: 538507
Is it legal to host a charity poker tournament in New York? With an
entry fee for the players. Majority of the fee goes to charity and a
portion goes towards prizes or cash for winners. There is an additional per player
charge for the event that the orginization pays for... renting of
tables and dealers.
If the prizes is a problem, can I include a $1 raffle as part of the
entry fee but say you must make the final table for your raffle to be
entered in the drawing?
If prizes are ok. Are there limits? Is a trophy OK but not a vacation trip or cash?
Specifically is it OK to start a business that organizes and hosts
poker tournaments in New York and can there be prizes paid to the
winners of these events?
Subject: Re: Charity Poker Tournament
Answered By: richard-ga on 29 Jun 2005 17:25 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Helo and thank you for your question.

Unfortunately, the following are criminal acts under Section 225 of the Penal Law:

* Promoting gambling - when a person knowingly advances or profits
from unlawful gambling activity
* Possession of gambling records

You can read the text of the law here (Scroll down to ARTICLE

As defined in the statute,
"Gambling."  A person engages in gambling when he stakes or risks
something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future
contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement
or understanding that he will receive something of value in the event
of a certain outcome.

"Advance gambling activity."  A person "advances gambling activity"
when, acting other than as a player, he engages in conduct which
materially aids any form of gambling activity.  Such conduct includes
but is not limited to conduct directed toward the creation or
establishment of the particular game, contest, scheme, device or
activity involved, toward the acquisition or maintenance of premises,
paraphernalia, equipment or apparatus therefor, toward the
solicitation or inducement of persons to participate therein, toward
the actual conduct of the playing phases thereof, toward the
arrangement of any of its financial or recording phases, or toward any
other phase of its operation.  One advances gambling activity when,
having substantial proprietary or other authoritative control over
premises being used with his knowledge for purposes of gambling
activity, he permits such to occur or continue or makes no effort to
prevent its occurrence or continuation.

The question whether poker, being to some degree a game of skill,
might not constitute gambling under the law, has come up here before:
Legality of Poker in New York City
Although the Researcher seems to indicate that poker might be such a
contest of skill that it could be lawful to run a poker game in New
York, it's apparent to me (and as written in the blog cited above)
that your tournament would be illegal.  Plus we know that the New York
City police have raided poker rooms in the City.

Making a charitable contribution out of some of your profits does not
change the answer.

You also can't sell lottery or raffle tickets as part of the program.
"'Lottery' means an unlawful gambling scheme in which (a) the players
pay or agree to pay something of value for chances, represented and
differentiated by numbers or by combinations of numbers or by some
other media, one or more of which chances are to be designated the
winning ones;  and (b) the winning chances are to be determined by a
drawing or by some other method based upon the element of chance;  and
(c) the holders of the winning chances are to receive something of
value ...."

[I understand that the raffle you describe in your question is a
little different, but if it's not itself a gambling scheme then it's
just a sort of ticket or prize draw from the poker contest]

Sorry to be so negative, but that's the law!

Search terms used:
"new york" "promoting gambling" "penal law" poker

Thanks again for bringing us your question.
Google Answers Researcher

Clarification of Answer by richard-ga on 29 Jun 2005 17:28 PDT
Here's an official determination that not even recognized charities
can sponsor TEXAS HOLD'EM poker tournaments in New York
"Under Article I, Section 9 of the New York State Constitution,
charitable gaming can only be conducted pursuant to laws adopted by
the Legislature. The Legislature delegated authority to the Board to
determine which games of chance are authorized for charitable play.
The Board, in turn, promulgated rules specifically authorizing certain
games of chance."

Clarification of Answer by richard-ga on 29 Jun 2005 17:30 PDT
Here's more from the paragraph quoted above:
"The Legislature ... prohibited the Board from authorizing any game of
chance involving wagering of money by one player against another
player. ...The Board-approved list of permissible charitable games of
chance does not include "Texas Hold?Em."

Request for Answer Clarification by coolhand-ga on 30 Jun 2005 06:37 PDT
According to what you found below...

As defined in the statute,
"Gambling."  A person engages in gambling when he stakes or risks
something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future
contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement
or understanding that he will receive something of value in the event
of a certain outcome.

If the players do not receive anything in return it is not considered
gambling? I am not looking to make money from the players or have them
make money. The entry is a donation, the players do not excpect to
make any money. If all they get is bragging rights is this OK? The
action of playing poker for 'fun'?

Are you saying taht even if the above is OK, that I can get in trouble
for renting out tables and dealers to a recognized charity.... even
though it is not gambling?

Clarification of Answer by richard-ga on 30 Jun 2005 10:42 PDT
Although you've already rated my answer, I will respond to your
Clarification Request.

Your question described a "tournament"
Definition of a poker tournament
"All players enter a tournament for the same amount of money, called
the buy-in. In addition, the poker room or casino takes out an entry
fee from all players entering the tournament. If the buy-in is $100
the house might take an extra $10, which means that the actual amount
paid by the player is $110. For a tournament with 100 players this
gives a total prize pool of 100 x $100 = $10,000. The pay out
structure depends on the tournament, but usually there is a prize for
approximately every ten players. In this case, it might be 30% for
first place followed by 20%, 13%, 10%, 7%, 6%, 5%, 4%, 3%, and 2%
respectively, thus making it ten prizes in total." 

That's what makes it illegal gambling.

Clearly under the definition of gambling that I provided to you, and
which you quote back to me in your Clarification Request, if the
participant stakes or risks nothing of value upon the outcome, i.e.
the participant maybe buys a ticket but win or lose gets nothing back,
then you'd be OK.

coolhand-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Charity Poker Tournament
From: chatprez-ga on 16 Jan 2006 09:19 PST
All these laws could be for a Golf, Pool, Horseshoe, Dart, Tournament
also. Is it because the game is played with Cards. All these events
require an entrance/sign up fee. The entrance allows the person to
enter into a competitive situation that will require some skill, luck,
and stamina to outperform all the other contestants. Whoever wins the
competition will get a prize. That prize could be many things. They
are all the same.
Subject: Re: Charity Poker Tournament
From: coolhand-ga on 16 Jan 2006 12:01 PST
I think the problem is that poker is not legaly considered a game of
skill. It must be challenged in court and proven that skill is a
important part of the game.

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