The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Tuesday, July 13, 2004

You Can and Can't Gamble 

More on Wisconsin's hypocritical nanny laws. I talked about Fireworks last week, and now I'm going to complain about Gambling Laws. I can say this much off the bat though, the State Gambling Law (PDF) is actually very clear. You can't gamble. Well, unless you are in an Indian Casino (which is allowed to provide gambling facilities through state compacts). If you own a tavern with a liquor license, then you can have no more than 5 video poker machines... because having 5 means you are not gambling, and 6 means you are? Interesting, the above referenced copy of the state statute says this about video poker:

A video poker machine is not a gambling machine per se. For a violation of sub. (5) to be found, the defendant must have collected proceeds from video poker machines knowing they were being used for gambling and that the proceeds were derived from the gambling. State v. Hahn, 203 Wis. 2d 450, 553 N.W.2d 292 (Ct. App. 1996).

You're kidding me right? Of course, as always, you can't prevent churches from having Friday Night Bingo, so bingo is not gambling. And you can't deprive the state of the extra revenue for schools, so lotteries are not really gambling. Everything else is. In other words, your Friday Night Poker game with your buddies is illegal. Or is it? (Emphasis Added)

(4) GAMBLING PLACE. (a) A gambling place is any building or tent, any vehicle (whether self-propelled or not) or any room within any of them, one of whose principal uses is any of the following: making and settling bets; receiving, holding, recording or forwarding bets or offers to bet; conducting lotteries; or playing
gambling machines.
(am) "Gambling place" does not include a place where bingo or a raffle is conducted under ch. 563, where a lottery is conducted under ch. 565 or where a race is conducted under ch. 562 and does not include a gambling vessel that is in the process of construction, delivery, conversion or repair by a shipbuilding business that
complies with s. 945.095.
(b) Evidence that the place has a general reputation as a gambling place or that, at or about the time in question, it was frequently visited by persons known to be professional gamblers or known as frequenters of gambling places is admissible on the issue of whether it is a gambling place.
(c) Any gambling place is a public nuisance and may be proceeded against under ch. 823.

So does my living room count? Personally, I consider it's principal uses to be for watching TV, conversing with friends, drinking, napping, and reading, among other things. Personally, I don't consider any of my friends to be professional gamblers, but would the state disagree? And exactly how frequently would I have to have poker night for my living room to be considered a "Gambling Place"? Hell, just read the portions of the State Constitution that talk about gambling:

Article IV,
Gambling. Section 24. [As amended April 1965, April 1973, April 1977, April 1987, April 1993 and April 1999]
Article IV,
(1) Except as provided in this section, the legislature may not authorize gambling in any form.

Article IV,
(2) Except as otherwise provided by law, the following activities do not constitute consideration as an element of gambling: ...

I won't list them all, but the Constitution lists at least 8 things that are exempt.

So to review, the state is allowed to provide gambling facilities because no legislator would ever remove a source of state income. The Indian Tribes are allowed to provide gambling facilities because they are under different jurisdictions. You can go to a dog track if you want. Did I forget to mention those? Yeah, they are allowed too. Churches and other non-profit organizations can have bingo. Even taverns are allowed to have video poker (because Video Poker isn't gambling... kind of). So, if realistically, gambling is all around, what is the overriding state concern for not allowing me to play poker in the privacy of my home? Judging by some of the links on the State website, it would be to prevent people from becoming addicted to gambling.

Of course this concern didn't stop the state from spending $4.6 million last year on "Informational Advertising", because "Promotional Advertising" is not allowed by statute:

The Wisconsin Constitution prohibits the expenditure of public funds for promotional advertising but permits product informational advertising. Through legislative action, the Wisconsin Lottery's informational advertising expenses have been limited to $4.6 million annually. We found this expenditure authority was not exceeded in FY 2002-03.

Have you seen some of the lottery ads on television? Are you seriously telling me that those are not promotional? So that can't be it. The constitution link above provides the following annotation:

The state's interest in preventing organized crime infiltration of a tribal bingo enterprise does not justify state regulation in light of compelling federal and tribal interest supporting it. California v. Cabazon Band of Indians, 480 U.S. 202 (1987).

So the state's interest is to prevent organized crime? And allowing track betting prevents organized crime how? More importantly, is the state's interest in preventing organized crime enough to stop me from playing a harmless game of poker? And, does preventing gambling in the illegal forms actually work to prevent organized crime? I don't think so. So what's the real reason I'm secretly being made a criminal? I would really like to know.


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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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