Thursday, January 13, 2005

Is Poker legal in Charlotte?

The popularity of poker on TV is not just spawning home games; it is also behind poker nights at Charlotte bars. But the big question now is are those games really legal?
Just about every night there is a poker game played inside one of Charlotte’s bars.
“We come out once a week, hang out with the boys have a good time,” said poker player John Kowalczik.
Poker has grown so much that bars started to get in on the action. A free tournament at Angry Ale's filled up in five minutes.
“Instead of sitting at the bar watching the game, you sit down for four hours and maybe play a free game and maybe win a free gift certificate at the end,” said poker player Brian Moran.
The problem is that bars can't get a clear answer on whether it's legal. The question apparently prompted Jillian's to cancel its poker night.
“It's sort of a gray area,” said Jeremy Kowlaski.
Kowlaski started Fifth Street Entertainment to help set up poker tournaments.
“It just looked like a great untapped market,” he said.
Kowlaski said it's not gambling because there's no money wagered. But some believe possessing the equipment needed to play the game is against the law.
“Meaning the table top, the chips and the cards,” Kowlaski said.
Legal or not, until the questions are answered some say they're nervous to get involved.
Lawmakers have debated permitting casino nights, which would clearly make the game and the equipment legal at least for a period of time. But the idea has yet to pass.
Until then deciding whether to play poker could just be one more risk involved in the game.

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