I am a novice poker player. I began playing around 2 years ago. Gambling is illegal in Tennessee and as a result, I have to resort to traveling 2 hours to Evansville, IN to legally play poker. I could also travel the four hours or so to Tunica, MS. After all, more casinos equal more poker. Oh, there is the occasional legal charity tournament that pops up here and there in Kentucky, but they don't come with regular frequency. I've played in two different tournaments in Hopkinsville, KY but the last one was in February. Like I said, they don't come up very often.
So, what is a resident of Tennessee to do? Well, alot of them resort to private tournaments or cash games. What many of them don't realize is this is illegal in Tennessee. Let's talk about gambling as it relates to poker.
First off, the offense for gambling is just a class C misdemeanor. That carries a sentence of up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine. This type of case doesn't come up very often. For your average run of the mill home gambling type of event, the police almost have to walk in on you to catch you. When you see someone charged with this type of offense, they are usually caught at a more organized game in a gambling house. Basically, you are only gambling when the only way you make money is through your winnings. If you have a little ring game with no rake, and the only way anybody makes money is through their winnings at the table, this should be the worst you would look at.
Next in line for punishment is gambling promotion. This is a B misdemeanor which carries up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine. This is when someone intends to make money from the gambling in a way, other than just by collecting their winnings. This might be a paid dealer but be careful out there dealers, you could also get hit for aggravated gambling promotion.
Aggravated Gambling Promotion is a class E felony. Depending on your criminal history, this carries 1 to 6 years. The person that is going to get hit for this type of charge is the person who runs the gambling house or invests or finances the house. A dealer might be thought to be managing a gambling enterprise. I have seen people charged with this offense when they were dealing at a gambling house. So, if you have a home game that takes a rake, you could be looking at felony charges if you are caught.
This is just a small quick discussion about gambling and poker in Tennessee. If you have been charged or investigated for some form of gambling,give us a call. Don't try it alone, we are here to help you. Contact us for an experienced attorney.