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The Meaning of “Illegal Gambling”: Why Legal Definitions Matter


You might not have read this chapter book, Frindle, by Andrew Clements, but …

Lawyers aren’t the only ones who want to know Definitions, Words & Phrases, and the Meaning of it All (and even the Meaning of Liff itself). Non-attorneys frequently ask us to show them where a word or phrase is defined, surely one of the hardest things a law librarian has to explain to a pro se litigant.

You might want to read this article, just one of many where the courts have to figure out what the meaning of a word is:

Judge Rules Poker Is Game of Skill, But Convicts Five Men for Gambling, posted Feb 19, 2009, by Debra Cassens Weiss:

A South Carolina judge has ruled that Texas Hold ’em is a game of skill, but that fact doesn’t require the acquittal of five men nabbed in a poker bust.

The lack of a clear definition of illegal gambling in the state contributed to the mixed ruling (PDF), the Poker News Daily reports.

A South Carolina law bans any game with cards or dice in “a house used as a place of gaming.” State Attorney General Henry McMaster has interpreted the statute to ban games that rely more on chance than skill. And for years, the office has viewed Texas Hold ’em as an illegal game of chance barred by this predominance test.

But Judge Lawrence Duffy Jr. said in his decision that the legislature has never “explicitly and precisely” defined the words “gaming” and “gambling house” in the state law, and he can’t definitively conclude that Texas Hold ’em is legal, even if it is a game of skill….” (link to full article from the ABA Journal)

And keep it in mind the next time you run out of ideas for defending your case.

(Thanks to Rob at Law in the News for the lead!)

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