The Key West Resort & Casino wants you to keep your game
Safe and Legal
There is only one certain way to make sure the poker or card game you're playing in is completely legal, fair and safe -- play at a licensed casino, card room or charity event.
But there are many reasons to play outside a casino. If you prefer social games, games where the limits are lower than those held in your local casino or card room, or games limited to trusted family and friends, a private game may be an option in your area. And if you are learning the game, casino play may be too expensive a venue to use as a training ground.
Even if you're playing with trusted friends, there are are still some steps you should take to make sure your game is both legal and safe.
About half the states in the United States expressly permit people to play "social games" for money or prizes at home. But the term "social game" has a specific definition in the law.
In states where social games are legal, the games must be held in a private home among players who have a real social relationship outside the game -- family, friends, coworkers or members of the same group or club. All games must be fair, and not favor any player or a "house" or bank. The host can't receive anything for hosting, except their winnings as a player, and even collecting money for food is forbidden. There can be no "rake," (an amount paid to the house per hand or per certain amount of time), and no "seat fee" charged. There can be no strangers or professional gamblers invited, and the game can't be advertised in public. Never advertise a private game, as this can alert cheats and other criminals to the existence, time and location of the game.
Local laws may prohibit what a state permits
Always remember that a local jurisdiction may have laws more strict than your state, and prohibit gambling or social games, even if your state allows it. In those areas, it is still illegal to play outside a licensed casino or licensed charity event, even in a social game.
If you are not sure of the laws in your area, consult your local law enforcement agency before you play!
Know your players, and know your host.
Finally, always make sure your game is safe. Don't permit anyone you don't know well into your home to play cards, and don't go to a stranger's home to play. If you plan to join a new group to play cards, always meet the players socially first, away from the game, then decide if you'd like to play.
Officially, we recommend that you do not wager anything of value against anyone unless you've known them for at least 10 years, and then judge, based on that experience, whether it is safe to play cards with them.
Do not expect or presume that the person running the game has checked the legal status of play in your state. (In fact, you should assume they haven't, and check for yourself.)
The Key West's List of
State by State Home Poker Game Status
Below is a list of the apparent status of home poker and card games in the various U.S. states. Several states were not clear, and not even the attorneys general of those states could provide clear status. In those cases, the state was listed as "illegal." Some states make gambling illegal, but note that it is a "defense to prosecution" that the game was a private social game. These states are marked (*).
This list is not legal advice. It is only a starting point for you, and one of at least three sources you should use to check the status of your own home game. Always check with your state prosecutor's office or local law enforcement and at least one other source before you play.
States where social games are permitted, either by definition or with a "social game defense (*)"
States where social games are illegal:
Always remember that if your game includes professional gamblers, strangers, members of the public, a house bank, a rake or a seat fee for the players, a house advantage or advantage to a dealer or any player, or is operated as a business, it is not a social game. Such games are either prohibited or strictly regulated in every state.
The Key West Resort & Casino is not a real casino, and does not operate any gaming operation, on the web or elsewhere. It's a line of fine gaming equipment made by casino industry manufacturers for Continental Games, LLC, Wilmington, Delaware. The Key West Resort & Casino logo is is a trademark of Continental Games, and is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. The Continental Card & Game Co. complies with the requirements of 15 USC § 1173. Click to visit Key West's Responsible Gaming page.