What Constitutes Illegal Gambling?

illegal gambling

There was a time when gambling was illegal everywhere except Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Though all that has changed, with casinos, pari-mutuel betting tracks and poker rooms being legalized in many states, there are still certain types of gambling, or gaming, that are prohibited in every state.

Gambling Defined

Though the specifics can vary somewhat, gambling generally requires a bet or a wager on some uncertainty (gambling must be based on chance, not certainty). The bet must be made in order to win something, and the person making the bet must put something of value at risk. It’s important to understand that courts have consistently held that a person need not put up money for a bet—anything of value can serve as a wager. Furthermore, there is typically no required amount of value—if the item at risk has value, it’s gambling.

What Constitutes a “Game of Chance”

As a general rule, state statutes prohibit unlicensed events where something of value is wagered based on some element of chance. To the contrary, if the event is based on skill—shooting a puck through a small target or making a certain number of free throws—it is not chance and is legally permissible.

Of course, there are many games that involve both chance and skill. In those instances, courts will typically try to determine which is more critical to the success or failure of the bet—skill or chance. Furthermore, courts will typically look at the skill of an “average” player. Just because there are highly skilled poker players who will typically beat most other players does not make it a game of skill.

You Must Have a Chance of Winning

If there’s no chance of winning something, you are not gambling. But even the slightest chance…one in a billion…is still a chance.