Is Gambling in Florida Legal?
The legal gambling scene in the Sunshine State is very dynamic. There are constantly new legislations being introduced by one party or another to legalise or to prohibit one form of gambling or another. It’s an ongoing battle, one that ultimately looks to legalize gambling as whole, but until that is reality, Florida residents should be glad to know that they have access to plenty of land based gambling already.
Legal Florida Gambling Options
Cruise Ship Gaming: Since 1984, residents have taken to the international waters to satisfy their gambling needs. All you have to do is go aboard one of these gaming cruise ships that sails to nowhere, either three miles into the Atlantic Ocean or nine miles into the Gulf of Mexico.
State Lottery: Available since 1986, players can choose from over 13,000 lottery retailers scattered across the state. Customers can choose from either local games, or if they’re really hoping to win the big jackpots, can try their luck with the multi-state lottery such as Mega Millions.
Poker: Residents wanting to play poker can do so at the Tribal casinos and racetracks, with bets ranging from $2 all the way up to $100. Poker has come along way in Florida and the state now hosts some prestigious tournaments and tours alongside regular cash-games.
Pari-Mutual Betting: Residents have access to both horse and dog racing, as well as Jai-Alai – a regional ball game in a 3-walled court.
Tribal Casinos: You’ll find some world class casinos here based on Seminole Tribal Lands, including the Hard Rock Casinos. You’ll have access to bingo and poker, as well as electronic or table games. Most of these are Class III except for the one ran by The Miccosukee tribe, which is a Class II due to a lack of compact with the state.
Social Gaming: Similar to most states, social games played at home are restricted to the same stipulations such as no one can benefit from the organisation of these events, and that everywhere must be playing with the same odds. The only other stipulation that separates this from other states is that the law restricts the maximum win to $10. This basically means that the only options are “Penny-Ante” games. With such a heavy limit placed on the maximum win, its not surprising to find most adults are probably playing more than the law stipulates, especially considering that the games are mostly played amongst friends and families.
Florida Gambling Laws
With a gambling history dating back to the late 1800’s with the opening of the first casino, it wasn’t until 2004 that the ball really got going and the Tribal casinos became as dominant as they are.
Lets start with the actual definition of what gambling is, taking from the Florida Statutes:
849.08 Gambling. — Whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.
According to this definition which includes “game of chance”, the first thought that comes to mind when thinking about poker is that one could use the element of skills as an argument. However, giving the blanket inclusion of “cards” might prove difficult to argue.
Like with most states, the primary targets of the state when it comes to illegal gambling are operators, rather than the players. Below is a list of some of the most relevant statutes in regards to criminal activities related to gambling, as well as they type of offence related to them:
- ⚠ Engaging in any form of illegal gambling is considered a misdemeanour of the second degree
- ⚠ Keeping gaming houses, booth, tent, shelter or other place for the purpose of gaming or gambling to play for money to other valuable thing is considered a third degree felony.
- ⚠ Promoting or setting up of a game of chance is a second-degree misdemeanour.
- ⚠ Any person who engages in bookmaking shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree, with additional convictions guilty of a felony of the second degree
Online Poker in Florida
Like most part of the nation, there is no clear cut answer when it comes to understanding the legality of online Florida poker rooms and online gambling in general. There is no definitive law that addresses online gambling, or specifically online poker.
However, there are some laws which loosely touch on the idea of online gambling, and could therefore potentially be used in the court of law to argue that one has committed a crime. The main one is the definition of “gambling” itself, as stated above in the gambling laws subsection. The inclusion of “card” games could apply to card games played online too.
Despite these loose prohibition against online gambling, many of the state’s residents still turn to online gambling, and as far as we know, no one has ever been prosecuted for playing online poker with real money or not. The only real hurdle for real money online poker players is finding a way to make deposits and withdrawals, since that has been made much harder thanks to the UIGEA.
The Future of Florida Gambling
The main restriction when it comes to gambling in Florida for the time being is online gambling. Bills for online gambling have already been introduced, and with the progressively more relaxed legislation in this State, the realisation of legalised online gambling, or online poker at least, doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched idea.