Yes, gambling is still against the law in most places within the United States. You know, it’s along the same lines as keeping prostitution illegal, but without the sex. The government believes they can keep us safe, keep us in line morally, by outlawing scary practices like consenting adults placing bets on games. And to prove their moral dominance, they will occasionally enforce these gambling laws with zeal.
Even when no one is actually gambling.
According to Reason Magazine online, the Nutz Poker League and several other similar leagues have been hosting free tournaments in the area for years. Players don’t bet, per say. Instead, they purchase drinks and food—which fund the league games—and have the chance to win prizes based on their spending and their hands. There is no entry fee and no cash bets are placed.
The leagues involved have set up the games specifically so that they abide by the state laws of Florida. But, unfortunately for them, the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco didn’t see it that way.
Sending local cops in full riot gear, with weapons drawn, the Agency raided a tournament held at Louie’s Grill and Sports Bar in Largo. Five employees of the restaurant were arrested and accused of working for a “gambling house”. Similarly, the owner was charged with “keeping a gambling house.” All of the charges are classified as 3rd degree felonies. All carry a potential 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fine.
Reason.com reports that according to the line of reasoning from the Agency, even a Scrabble tournament could qualify for a SWAT raid, and so could a rousing game of Trivia, as is held at bars across the state and country every single night.
“We don’t understand what’s the law,” said one member of the gaming league. “The league’s been going on for years, and all of a sudden it’s against the law?”
There were no warnings that a raid was coming. No phone calls,emails, or letters have ever been sent to the league or places they hold tournaments warning them that they were breaking laws. The organizers were so certain that they were being lawful, that the tournaments were advertised publicly. Nothing suggested a criminal mind, or guilty conscience.
Often times people are charged with a criminal offense they knew nothing about. In some cases, this makes no difference, the state will press forward with charges regardless. But, in some cases, a local criminal defense attorney can help. Contact our offices today if you are charged with a crime and unsure of your rights.