Supreme Court could decide legality of poker games

by: Justin Gray Updated:

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WASHINGTON —

Fifty-five million Americans play poker, but now the Supreme Court could weigh in on whether your basement poker game is a federal crime.
 
Under Georgia law, betting on hands of poker, even around your kitchen table with friends, is illegal.
 
Robert Costner regularly hosts poker parties for as many as 100 people in Virginia, a state where it's legal to play for cash at home.
 
“Why does the federal government care?” said Costner. “It's not organized crime. It's not the mob, it’s just some guys getting together having fun.”
 
But the Supreme Court could soon step in. The feds busted and convicted a New York man for running a poker game in the back of his bicycle shop. He's now appealed to the nation's highest court.
 
The case could impact everyone who likes to play a little poker with friends.
 
“I would hate to have what I’m doing here, playing poker, determined to be a federal crime,” Costner said.
 
The bike shop owner's attorneys claim poker shouldn’t be classified as illegal gambling because it's a game of skill.
 
“The only way you can consistently win money is by skill,” Costner said.
 
But Justice Department lawyers don't buy that argument, saying in their brief to the Supreme Court, "Courts have long held that poker contains a sufficient element of chance to constitute gambling."
 
Laws about poker and whether it's legal at home or in a private club differ from state to state. A Supreme Court decision could change that.
 
The Supreme Court will decide on Friday whether it will take on the case.