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I. A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if such person knowingly and unlawfully:
(a) Permits gambling in any place under the person’s control.
(b) Gambles, or leans money or any thing of value for the purposes of aiding another to gamble
(c) Possesses a gambling machine.” (1)
So in terms of the relevance of this law to poker players, part (b) does mention gambling, in other words it is a misdemeanor to gamble. It does mention that this gambling must be unlawful, which would require that the gambling in question fall within the definition of gambling as set out by state law.
New Hampshire defines gambling for the purposes of this law as follows:
“”Gambling” means to risk something of value upon a future contingent event not under one’s control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that something of value will be received in the event of a certain outcome.” (2)
Unlike definitions of gambling set out in some other states, which are much more clear, this one is extremely vague, especially if they are out to include any games where skill is an element.
For instance, we will often see the definition include things like the outcome not totally being under one’s control or influence, so that even though one may exercise some degree of control or influence, merely having some control would not exclude it from being defined as gambling.
We also will see references to an element of chance being present, and having any element of chance influence the outcome being sufficient to define it as gambling. Often you will also see within a state’s definition of gambling references to elements of skill not being relevant as long as there are elements of chance involved as well.
How This May Apply To Playing Poker in Maine
The reason why states put these more strict provisions in their definitions is to look to address and overcome any concerns that the player having an influence on the outcome of bets through their own actions would be a material factor in determining whether the activity constituted gambling or not.
This is particularly the case with the game of poker, where the actions of players clearly do influence the result to a material degree. There is also the material element of chance as well, so the game is a combination of the skill of the player and the fall of the cards, as is the case with the game of blackjack as well and perhaps some other casino games, depending on how we look at the skill element of it.
So let’s look at the exact wording of the definition again, risking something of value not under one’s control or influence. So if the outcome is under one’s control or influence to any degree, it is under one’s control or influence.
So it could be argued that the outcome of betting on poker is indeed under one’s control or influence to a degree, as it is widely accepted that poker does contain an element of skill, meaning that skill influences the outcome, this skill is practiced by the player, and therefore the player does influence the outcome to some degree anyway.
The way the definition is worded, some degree would be enough.
So This Law Really Is Subject To Interpretation
The goal of legislators is always to make the laws they create clear enough so that they don’t require a lot of interpretation. This is why when you read the definition of gambling in the law of some states they don’t leave anything to guesswork and they go out of their way in fact to make sure that it is understood that a game such as poker with its element of skill as well as elements of chance are included.
So when things are less clear, it falls upon the courts to decide whether or not a game such as poker would constitute gambling under the law. In some cases there may be a little doubt and the courts step in and give their interpretation of it.
In this case it is wide open actually, and there has not been any rulings in New Hampshire that have addressed this, other than a ruling that players varying their bets while playing video poker does not constitute exerting control or influence over the outcome and therefore would constitute gambling.
With normal poker though, players do exercise much more control over the game than just varying their bets, so although law enforcement officials in New Hampshire generally believe poker to be a form of illegal gambling, it is not up to them to decide.
In any case, commercial poker playing is regulated in New Hampshire, and there’s never been a case of a private poker game being busted, so whatever belief law enforcement officials may have doesn’t really matter if the law has never been put to the test and there is no real desire on their part to do so.
Where to Play Live and Online Poker In New Hampshire?
Apart from private games, there are a total of seven live poker rooms in New Hampshire, in Keene (9 tables), Manchester (17 tables), Salem (60 tables), Hampton Falls (30 tables), Belmont (10 tables), Milford (25 tables), and Seabrook (45 tables). For a state of such small size, New Hampshire has quite a large live poker scene and in terms of the sheer amount of tables they offer, has one of the most of any state in the country. (3)
Online Poker Recommendations for New Hampshire Citizens
New Hampshire residents can also take advantage of the online poker scene as well, with all of the online poker sites that offer play to Americans in general warmly welcoming residents of New Hampshire.
Our top two picks for online poker for players from New Hampshire are Ignition Poker and Americas Cardroom, both of which offer high quality poker rooms, lots of action, and nice welcome bonuses. Click on our links to discover more about them and why they are good choices.
#1 – Ignition Poker Review: This is our #1-rated site because of its amazing software and top-notch game selection, anonymous tables and large bonuses you will earn upon signing up. The site currently offers new customers a FREE $5 casino chip just for signing up and a 100% bonus up to $1,000.
#2 – Americas Cardroom Review: Our #2-rated site is actually much larger in terms of game selection and traffic goes, but they’re also very much shark-infested at the medium stakes tables and above. ACR has great software, is awesome for multi-tabling grinders and they offer tons of promos for new and existing players.