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“(4) GAMBLING. A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.
Gambling does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts, including but not limited to contracts for the purchase or sale at a future date of securities or commodities, and agreements to compensate for loss caused by the happening of chance, including but not limited to contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health or accident insurance.” (1)
The definition of ‘contests of chance” is also similar to that provided in many other states, and is written to explicitly include games where there is also an element of skill involved, such as with poker and other games that feature both elements of chance and skill:
“(3) CONTEST OF CHANCE. Any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.” (2)
So with the game of poker, the outcome does depend to a material degree upon an element of chance, at least as far as the outcome of the wagers are concerned. The element of chance here is the fall of the cards of course, and although there is also an element of skill involved, this does not save it from being included in the definition.
So while we may read comments about how there may be some uncertainty to these laws, there is none, as these laws have been carefully written to remove any doubt whatsoever of whether wagering on poker is considered gambling or not, and it clearly is included in the definition.
Prohibitions Against Gambling In Alabama
Now that we have defined what gambling is in Alabama, it is time to look at what the law says about it. While there are various offenses listed in the criminal code related to gambling, as poker players, it is only the offense of gambling itself that we need be concerned about, termed “simple gambling” in Alabama:
“(a) A person commits the crime of simple gambling if he knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity as a player.
(b) It is a defense to a prosecution under this section that a person charged with being a player was engaged in a social game in a private place. The burden of injecting the issue is on the defendant, but this does not shift the burden of proof.
(c) Simple gambling is a Class C misdemeanor.” (3)
So we know from (b) that social gambling is permitted, although the law here does not define what social gambling means, unlike some other states which have clearly defined it. This is a clear oversight as it does leave the door open when it comes to whether or not a particular form of gambling would be understood to be social or not.
The stipulation that this would have to be in a private setting would rule out some forms, those occurring in a non private setting, but presumably people could create private social clubs which would be members only, where the players could engage in social gambling, and as long as the owners didn’t derive any profit from the game directly, this could be argued to be social gambling.
It may also be the case that online poker could be seen as social gambling as well, since it does occur in a private setting, and while it may be argued that it is a commercial venture, there is no mention in the law that that would be a disqualifying condition, which is why other states have explicitly mentioned that no one other than the players are permitted to profit.
They may have thought that the other provisions of the law pertaining to running gambling establishments would cover this, but online the establishments are of course outside the state and not subject to Alabama law.
So a claim of social gambling constitutes a possible defense at least where internet poker is concerned, although no one has ever been charged with this so it has not been put to the test.
Playing Poker In Alabama
Alabama does not have any live poker rooms, so players are limited to playing in social games and on the internet. Players may also travel to neighboring states to access live poker, in Mississippi and Florida, and there are several located close to the state borders (4).
Alabama does have three Indian casinos which operate, although none offer poker or table games at all. (5) This is a fairly conservative state where gambling is concerned and there has been a fierce battle ongoing with electronic bingo halls, where the state has sought to shut these down and the matter had to be referred to the state Supreme Court on two different occasions.
So it’s not likely that they will allow even live poker rooms anytime soon, let alone internet poker, given the vendetta the state has on even bingo halls. It may be that Alabama may offer regulated online poker some day, but that day is in the distant future at best.
However, Alabama residents who wish to play online poker have full access to all of the online poker sites that offer play to Americans in general. Whether or not online poker is legal in Alabama, and this is one of the states where the law isn’t as clear on this as it could be, no one is being charged for it, and Alabama is notorious for its anti gambling raids on poker rooms as well as other gambling establishments. It is very difficult to come up with warrants to raid people’s private homes for allegedly gambling on the internet though, and this is the main reason why this has never happened not only in Alabama but anywhere in the country.
Our two top recommended poker rooms for players from Alabama are America’s Cardroom and Carbon Poker. Both are very good poker rooms, click on our links to check them out further.