(a) Gambling is:
(1) Making a bet; or
(2) Entering or remaining in a gambling place with intent to make a bet, to participate in a lottery or play a gambling device.
(b) Gambling is a class B nonperson misdemeanor.” (1)
This of course depends on how bet is defined, and however it is defined, it is to be deemed gambling and therefore illegal. So let’s now look at the state’s definition of “bet”:
““Bet” means a bargain where the parties agree that, dependent upon chance, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.” (2)
The definition goes on to specify various exclusions that the definition of “bet” does not apply to, which basically is a list of permitted forms of betting, such as that at licensed bingo halls, para-mutuel race tracks, the state lottery, and at tribal gaming facilities.
Oddly enough, the definition of “lottery” does not include state run lotteries, lottery refers to non state run lottery schemes, which is why in the actual law against gambling it refers to participating in a lottery as gambling and therefore illegal (3)
How This Law May Apply To Poker
As far as poker is concerned, the question of whether or not playing poker for money is illegal in Kansas or not depends on whether it fits into the state’s definition of betting or not.
At first glance, it may seem obvious that it would, if we understand poker as making bets which are dependent upon chance. However, poker is not just a game of chance but of skill as well, and this is why laws in other states, who are presumably looking to include poker within the definition of gambling, will specify that the outcome only need rely on chance in part, or something to that effect, to preclude such discussions.
When this is left out, and the law simply states that the bets must be based upon chance, like this one does, then this leaves the door wide open to the courts to interpret things, and they often will come to the conclusion that the element of skill in poker is enough to exclude it as being a game of chance per se.
The element of skill in poker is such an issue that courts have been known to rule that it does not constitute gambling even in cases where the element of chance is only required to have some influence on the outcome, and neglect that by looking to define it as a bona fide contest of skill, even though these decisions are obviously incorrect.
So this is therefore left to the courts to decide, and there are precedents on both sides, although precedents in other states aren’t binding and are merely cited as reference material.
How The Kansas Courts Have Interpreted This
We do have a case to refer to in Kansas, the Three Kings Holdings case (4). Although the game in question was not poker, and was a variation contrived by the defendants, it was found to be similar enough to Texas Holdem to allow for comparisons.
The courts used the standard of predominance here, meaning that if the game was found to predominantly be based upon chance, then it would be found to be a game of chance, and if it was predominantly based on skill, it would not be. This does tend to be the standard most often used in cases in other states where this matter was deliberated.
Should they have wished, they could have used other methods of deciding this, and this was certainly an unfavorable one for the defense, however there have been cases where the courts have decided that poker is predominantly a game of skill, however it depends essentially on whether you are looking at contests as a whole or at individual hands.
The court decided that poker is a series of individual hands and chance was the predominant factor in deciding each of these hands, and therefore ruled that this form of poker was betting and therefore gambling. By extension other forms of poker would be included as well as there was nothing particular about this game that this determination would not apply to other forms as well.
So therefore poker is indeed a game of chance in Kansas, and the decision was upheld by the Kansas Court of Appeals.
Playing Poker In Kansas
There are a total of 6 poker rooms located in the state of Kansas, plus one just over the border in Kansas City, MO. (5) So those who enjoy live poker and wish to play with the certainty that the poker they are playing is fully legal and authorized can simply visit one of these venues.
The state of Kansas has yet to address the issue of regulating online poker or online gambling although they do make a fair bit of money off of gambling and may one day look to the online market to increase their revenues.
There is a lot of wait and see in various states and as more and more states enter the arena, especially if they do well, and we have yet to see that much of that yet actually, then this will probably create more momentum and states like Kansas may look at this more seriously.
While players in Kansas wait for this to perhaps someday happen, many Kansas players are playing poker right now, as in spite of the law being found to apply to poker, no one is being arrested, and there does not seem to be either the will or the capacity to do so, and this has players from most states around the country boldly going forth and playing online.
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