FAIR LAWS ON POKER
An Organization run by Bob Ciaffone dedicated to improving poker laws

IMPORTANT NEWS ABOUT CHARITY POKER LAWS IN MICHIGAN!!

In November of 2013, Governor Rick Snyder, through the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB), ramped up the attack on charity poker cardrooms with proposed legislation designed to put these cardrooms out of business. The three Detroit casinos have been proposing legislation (so far, unsuccessfully) to curtail the expansion of charity poker cardrooms ever since the poker boom started in 2005. Now the Detroit casinos have an ally in Governor Snyder. Closing these cardrooms would make huge cuts in the amount of funds that are raised by Michigan charitable organizations because they would be forced to use only their own facility and personnel to run these charity events. Closure would also leave the poker players of Michigan without a local centralized location to play their favorite game. If the MGCB passes legislation to severely reduce charity poker income by eliminating fixed location charity cardrooms, this will certainly cause charity gaming to become as highly charged political issue in the 2014 election. (I am putting up a link MI Charity Poker to a page with more info on this key issue.) It is important that lawmakers and the public understand the elements of good poker laws. Here are some ideas for a set of model charity poker laws.

Fair Laws On Poker, FLOP for short, is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving poker laws. Our local, state, and national laws that apply to poker do not reflect the way the game of poker is viewed by most of our citizens. The FLOP website is designed to be a great source of information for anyone who wishes to see the damage caused by our present state gambling laws affecting poker-playing and how to improve these laws. Most laws regulating poker are state anti-gambling laws (as opposed to federal or local). Some of these laws are recent, but many of them date back to the 19th century, and are clearly out of touch with modern society mores, practices, and needs. There is no state that has an ideal set of laws affecting poker at this time; most have serious deficiencies. Now that poker tournaments are widely televised, and poker is booming in popularity, we can hope for the public support we need to achieve what should have been done a long time ago; getting fair laws on poker.

The founder of FLOP and person maintaining this website is Bob Ciaffone, a professional poker player, writer, and teacher. Ciaffone, who lives in Saginaw, Michigan, is the author of six instructive poker books, and is a columnist for Card Player magazine for over two decades. He is the leading authority on poker rules and has done extensive legal research and writing on poker laws.

Bob Ciaffone is a politically active Democrat. He is the Rules Committee Chair for the Saginaw County Democratic Party and a member of the Saginaw County Democratic Party Executive Committee. In April 2008, Bob was elected to be a delegate from Michigan's 4th Congressional District to the historic Democratic National Convention in Denver  (He was one of five people from that district selected for this wonderful honor). In 2008, 2010, and 2012, he was part of the team given the responsibility of creating the preliminary draft updating the Michigan Democratic Party's platform for the coming election cycle, and the most prolific worker on that team. For his platform work, Ciaffone was awarded the title of "MDP Volunteer of the Year" in 2012.

Ciaffone is the author of a study called A Comparative Study of State Laws on Social Gambling. This paper was presented at the London International Gaming Conference in 1990, and was reprinted as a chapter of professor William Eadington's highly respected book, "Gambling And Public Policy." It shows the wide variance in the treatment of gambling by the laws of different states. The unfairness of many of these badly-written laws will shock you. The poker laws of South Carolina are so ineptly written that if enforced according to the letter of the law (and the intent of the legislature back two centuries ago when they were written) would deprive citizens of their constitutional rights. Here is a legal argument by Ciaffone showing that South Carolina's poker laws are unconstitutional.
Despite the strong need for fair laws on poker and other social gambling games, at this time Bob Ciaffone appears to be the only person who has done this type of comparative study calling attention to the problem. If you would like to look at other articles by Bob Ciaffone related in some way to poker legality and regulation, click on Ciaffone articles.

FLOP is very much interested in getting suitable poker laws, particularly at the state level. Many state gambling laws that apply to poker-playing are obsolete, written in the 1800's and never substantially modified. They are horribly unfit for modern conditions, especially with the huge wave of poker popularity in the 21st century. The time is ripe for changing these archaic gambling laws. What we need is to establish a class of game-playing to distinguish recreational gambling games from hardcore casino gambling games. A game like poker, where players compete only against each other, is of a substantially different character than a casino gambling game like blackjack, which has the player competing against the house. Poker deserves to be treated differently under the law than blackjack. For one thing, when the house hosts a recreational game where the players compete against each other, it has an incentive to be scrupulously honest, being in a sense the referee. The incentive is in the other direction when the house is the opponent of the players.

A great need in poker laws is to protect the player when the house is determined to be in violation of a state gambling law. The player often is not in a position to obtain the needed information to know if the law has been broken. This is most apparent with the large number of poker tournaments held these days. For example, someone openly runs a poker tournament in a reputable establishment, says it is legal, and makes money hosting the activity. A person who mistakenly assumes everything is okay should not be punished for simply entering the tournament. This must be changed. At the start of 2006, Bob Ciaffone collaborated with Chuck Humphrey, the Colorado lawyer who is a noted authority on gambling law, on producing a model law to protect mere players from prosecution under state anti-gambling statutes. You can find the text of this proposed legislation and the reasons why it would be a significant improvement over current laws on Mr. Humphrey's webpage titled
Player Protection For Recreational Games.

Chuck Humphrey's website US Gambling Law is the best place on the internet for viewing the current state and federal laws on poker. Every serious poker player should have it bookmarked.

Poker players will never be treated fairly under the law so long as we are lumped in with hardcore casino-game gamblers. Please read this excellent 2005 article by Card Player writer Roy Cooke on the need for poker to receive a separate legal classification. His article is titled
It's Poker, Not Gambling.

Do you intend to play an active role in getting better poker laws in your state? Read what the veteran poker player Perry Green of Anchorage, who has a bill pending in the Alaska legislature, has to say by way of good advice on influencing poker legislation.

The Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act became law in October of 2006.
For Bob Ciaffone's comments on this law, click on The UIGEA

Anyone interested in studying poker legality needs to be aware of what is actually happening in practice. To read about those occasions where poker players have been playing in a poker tournament that was raided by the police, go to our webpage below.

 

POKER BUSTS