MikeSmith 
Member since Aug 11, 2015


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Re: “Charity Poker Tournament

Q: What makes a poker tournament legal or illegal?

A: The main distinction is whether the poker being played is considered “gambling.” For “gambling” to occur, three elements must be present: consideration, chance, and reward. These elements are sometimes expressed as “payment, luck, and prize.” The first level of inquiry, then, is whether all three of these components are present, because by eliminating any one of them, the activity would not meet the definition of “gambling” as set forth in Colorado law.

For example, if the consideration component is eliminated and no fee, buy-in or other money is required or solicited from the participants in a poker tournament, then prizes may be awarded to the player(s) who perform well in the tournament. This is how several organized poker tournaments are able to operate legally outside the three gaming towns. On the other hand, if an organization charges a donation, fee or other buy-in for a poker tournament or other event, then it cannot legally distribute prizes based upon who wins or plays well in the tournament or event. Such organization could legally conduct a drawing, door prize or raffle as long as the prizes are randomly awarded and are not tied to success in the tournament or event. Likewise, the organization could legally conduct the tournament for the pure entertainment value alone. By disconnecting the prize from the risk element of the poker or other event, such activity would arguably not meet the definition of gambling.

If all three elements are present, the activity is considered “gambling” and can only be conducted in the context of “social gambling” as previously defined.

Q: Are “charitable” poker tournaments allowed?

A: A misconception exists that if a poker tournament is for charity, or the prizes are donated, the charity could charge for the event. Such an event would still be illegal under Colorado law because the three elements of gambling listed above are present. Although the Colorado General Assembly approved a charitable gambling exception in the liquor code in 1979, it was repealed in 1983 because of the explosion of “charity” events, enforcement issues and problems encountered with the money actually going to the charities.

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Posted by MikeSmith on 08/11/2015 at 12:08 PM

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