Monday, August 31, 2009

Is Playing Poker Legal in South Australia?

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Please consult your own legal professional before taking any actions or making any decisions relating to poker in South Australia and/or the content of this article.

If you don't want to read through the entire post, here is a summary:
  • For profit (where a rake or fee is taken) private and public games are, and have always been, illegal in South Australia.
  • Not-for-profit private games with or without stakes are legal.
  • Not-for-profit public games without stakes are legal.
  • Not-for-profit public games with stakes appear to be legal with the recent court ruling but this could change in the future.
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This is an issue thats been up and down over the past four years ever since the APA's 3rd South Australian Poker Championships were raided by Police and the attendants and organisers charged with unlawful gaming.

The law, as I understand it, is that playing games of chance (including poker) where something of value is bet or wagered, in a public place, is illegal in South Australia except in SkyCity Adelaide Casino who have an expensive and strictly regulated license to conduct these games.

However, the recent decision in a test case relating to the charging of those from the APA suggests that poker is not included in the games of chance referred to in the law. The South Australian law uses the specific wording "wholly a game of chance" which appears to be the clincher in the decision.

From the Addisons Lawyers article: Is Poker a Game of Chance? - The Australian Position:

...the Court appeared to accept the expert evidence that, despite an element of chance existing in respect of the manner in which cards are dealt, skill was a determinant element in the outcome in the game over time.
This certainly sounds like a victory for poker players in South Australia but what does it mean specifically for those wanting to organise games outside the casino?

From the Poker Network article: APA Claims Legal Victory For Poker in Australia:

The judgment by Magistrate Koula Kossiavelos effectively gives the green light for poker players in South Australia to organise private, not for profit, poker games. According to the judgment, Texas Hold’em is not considered an illegal game under South Australian legislation. Nor is the holding or organising of poker events in which the proceeds are returned to a prize pool of some form.
This is a little less clear as it is my understanding that not-for-profit private games have always been legal. The Poker Network article also mentions Texas Hold'em specifically, but doesn't mention the case for other forms of poker.

The definition of a 'private game' seems to be somewhat uncertain. If its on private property and not open to the public then I would say its a private game. If its in a public venue and/or open and advertised to the public then it might be considered a public game.

More recently, perhaps in retalliation to the court decision, Pub Poker has come under fire from none other than SkyCity Adelaide Casino who asked the State Government to review the games as they might be illegal.

SkyCity Casino has previously had a monopoly of public poker games in Adelaide and it appears they are scared of losing that. However they do pay big money and have to put up with heavy regulatory scrutiny in exchange for their gaming license so its understandable that they'd want to protect that.

As I have argued before, I think the Pub Poker system of offering bonus chips for buying drinks and food exploits a loophole in order to run what would otherwise be an illegal poker game. They are effectively running a freeroll with rebuys where the rebuys cost money and have a rake or fee taken from them. It is my understanding that this would be considered illegal but the sneaky drink card system hides the true nature of the game.

In Summary:
  • For profit (where a rake or fee is taken) private and public games are, and have always been, illegal in South Australia.
  • Not-for-profit private games with or without stakes are legal.
  • Not-for-profit public games without stakes are legal.
  • Not-for-profit public games with stakes appear to be legal with the recent court ruling but this could change in the future.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Please consult your own legal professional before taking any actions or making any decisions relating to poker in South Australia and/or the content of this article.

7 comments:

farid1323 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
farid1323 said...

I posted this in another blog post of yours incorrectly :(

I said that I wasn't sure of the exact meaning of the legislation. ie: a group hire a poker host who provides for them tables, cards, chips and dealers. The poker host also provides them with a venue (a pub). The poker host is getting paid for the service. And the group decide to use cash to gamble with each other. Out of the pool of cash there is no fee taken either by the pub or the poker host. Would this be classified as not-for-profit?

What do you think? Of course I will get more clear legal advice I would however, like to hear what you think of this.

Farid
co-founder, TP Party Solutions (www.tppartysolutions.com.au)

vijaysaw said...

Of course Its legal to play poker in Australia.

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