Unlawful Gambling

Florida Criminal Defense

In Florida all gambling is regulated by the state, and violations of the imposed regulations is considered a serious offense. Being convicted of unlawful gambling can result in jail time and the required payment of hefty fines, so if you or a loved one have been charged with this offense, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you establish a defense.

Gambling

In Florida, gambling is defined as participation in any card game or game of chance, such as keno, roulette, or faro, regardless of the location of the game, that is played for money or another item of value. Unlawful gambling is considered a second-degree misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to two months’ imprisonment and the payment of a $500 fine.

Exceptions

Some forms of gambling, however, are not unlawful if they meet certain requirements. For instance, it is not against the law for a person to participate in a penny-ante game, as long as the winnings of any player in a single hand or game are not more than $10 in value. Examples of penny-ante games include:

  • Poker;
  • Pinochle;
  • Bridge;
  • Rummy;
  • Canasta;
  • Hearts;
  • Dominoes; and
  • Mah-jong.

In order to be legal, a penny-ante game must also be conducted in a dwelling. A dwelling includes:

  • Residential premises that are owned or rented and occupied by a participant in the game;
  • The common areas of a condominium, residential subdivision, or mobile park home, if a participant in the game owns a unit in the complex;
  • A tax-exempt organization’s facilities;
  • Rooms and common areas located in a college dormitory; or
  • A community center owned by a municipality or county.

Besides being located within a legally recognized dwelling, a legal penny-ante game must meet the following requirements:

  • The person allowing the game to be held in his or her dwelling cannot receive any commission for permitting the game to be played on his or her property;
  • No person can charge admission for participation in the game;
  • Participants cannot be solicited through advertising, nor can the time or place of the game be advertised; and
  • No participants can be under the age of 18.
Prima Facie Evidence

If devices that are commonly used in gambling are found in a person’s house or room, then the existence of those objects will be considered prima facie evidence that the dwelling was kept for the purpose of gambling. Antique slot machines do not fall under the category of gambling devices.

Lotteries

Conducting or participating in lotteries is also prohibited by the state. In Florida, it is unlawful for a person to:

  • Set up, promote, or conduct a lottery for money, property of value, or a prize;
  • Have in his or her possession a lottery wheel or device used for conducting a lottery, or a lottery ticket;
  • Sell a lottery ticket in person or by mail; or
  • Have in his or her possession a lottery advertisement, list of lottery prizes, or tally sheets relating to a lottery or gambling.
Penalties

Conducting a lottery or assisting someone else in doing so is considered a third-degree felony, which is punishable by a five-year prison sentence and the mandatory payment of a $5,000 fine.

Attempting to conduct a lottery, selling or possessing a lottery ticket, or having devices used in conducting a lottery is a first-degree misdemeanor. This charge carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and the payment of a $1,000 fine. A second conviction for this crime will be charged as a third-degree felony.

The consequences of being charged with unlawful gambling can be serious. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected and may even be able to get your charges reduced. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.