by Max Brantley
Thanks to Under the Dome for reminding me of a story I heard about on KATV the other day. It seems that something called the National Poker Challenge wanted to run a game in Little Rock. City Attorney Tom Carpenter says it's gambling and illegal. The cops won't allow it.
But here's my thinking. The legislature has effectively decreed that poker is NOT gambling, but a game of skill. If it was gambling, it would be outlawed by the Constitution's prohibition on lotteries. But since it is allowed in electronic form at Oaklawn and Southland race tracks, it clearly must not be gambling. The legislature wouldn't pass an unconstitutional law, would it?
If some fellows just want to get together to challenge each other's poker skills, and take home a stuffed bear or something as a prize, how in the world could a lawmaker or police officer argue that this is gambling? Because, remember: Gambling is illegal. It is not allowed in Arkansas, except in "charity" bingo and parimutuel wagering on horse and dog races at Oaklawn and Southland. But poker? Or blackjack? Those are games of skill.
UPDATE: For the record, a legal scholar notes that there is a statute that prohibits "betting" on card games. Yes, of course. It is a violation punishable by a fine of $10 to $25 (unless you bet your quarters on the games of skill at Oaklawn and Southland). My point here was the absurdity of how the law contorts itself to serve a couple of moneyed interests. If Oaklawn and Southland may bend the law like a pretzel, is it any wonder others scheme to do the same? Why not allow games of skill played for points, though cash prizes may be awarded on conclusion of said games of skill. Is that betting on cards? Ever played those games of skill at the State Fair? But remember. Your Friday night poker game? It's a crime. Unless you stage it around an electronic card table at Southland or Oaklawn.