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Don’t Risk Running Afoul Of Florida’s Gambling Laws

gambling

Gambling is an activity regulated by Florida law, though likely few Floridians are probably aware that their private wager on Saturday’s football game is a violation of those laws. This is what you need to know about the laws that govern gambling in the state of Florida.

Basics

In general, gambling is illegal in Florida. But what constitutes “gambling”? Florida statute defines gambling as

  • playing or engaging in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance,
  • at any place,
  • by any device whatever,
  • for money or other thing of value.

Exceptions

A few exceptions to the laws against gambling in Florida exist. Among them are pari-mutuel wagering at licensed facilities. Pari-mutuel wagering is defined as

a system of betting on races or games in which the winners divide the total amount bet, after deducting management expenses and taxes, in proportion to the sums they have wagered individually and with regard to the odds assigned to particular outcomes.

Florida allows pari-mutuel wagering for a handful of sports, including dog racing, horse racing, and jai alai. Greyhound racing cannot be conducted in Florida, but it may be shown on closed-circuit television and people may make wagers on those races in the state.

Conversely, thoroughbred horse racing must be conducted live in Florida for wagering on it to be legal.

Casinos

In Florida, cardroom-style casinos are generally not legal. Pari-mutuel casinos are allowed if the owner has a permit from the state to operate one. However, tribal casinos are allowed in Florida under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Aside from casinos operated under the Act, gambling devices are also illegal.

Penny-Ante Games

The state of Florida allows gambling on certain games if the winnings in a single hand, round, or game is not over $10. Those “penny-ante” games include

  • poker,
  • pinochle,
  • bridge,
  • rummy,
  • canasta,
  • hearts,
  • dominoes, and
  • mah-jongg

However, here too are several restrictions. The games must be at a dwelling, and the person holding the games may not make money or take money for holding the games. The games may not be advertised, and none of the participants can be under 18. Also, the winnings of such games are not legally enforceable in Florida.

Charitable Games

Charitable organizations may hold raffles or drawings in Florida if they meet several criteria. The organization must be a 501(c)(3), (4), (7), (8), (10), or (19) with a current Determination Letter from the Internal Revenue Service in hand and have actual members or officers.

Advertisements for the raffle or drawing must contain several pieces of information, including

  • the full name and address of the organization,
  • the rules of the raffle,
  • the source of funding for the raffle,
  • the date and time of the raffle, and
  • that there is no purchase necessary to participate in the raffle.

Bingo

Bingo is allowed in Florida, but only under special circumstances. The organization must be a charitable, non-profit, or veterans association if it wishes to use bingo to raise funds for itself. If the operating entity is not one of those organizations, it must return all the proceeds it collects in the course of the games to players as prizes.

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