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A pair of bills in the Maryland legislature will decriminalize home game poker and poker games held in 55 and older communities. Capital News Service reported on the story Friday and revealed that Delegate Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery, and Delegate Marvin homes Jr., D-Prince George, have bills in consideration that would allow home poker games to run freely without fear of prosecution.

The bill being proposed by Delegate Reznik would allow private citizens to run games of skill or chance involving wagering, provided that the individual doesn’t collect a rake of any type. Currently, anyone running a home poker game in Maryland can face criminal prosecution. Punishment can include imprisonment and fines up to $1,000.

The other bill being floated by Delegate Holmes would make the same types of games legal in 55 and older communities. You will often find games such as bridge and poker being played for low stakes in many communities. Current laws would permit authorities to raid these games, some not containing any more than $100 in total wagering.


Current Law Makes Private Homes “Casinos”

At present, anyone running a home poker game would be considered running a private casino. As Reznik explained to the House Ways and Means Committee this past Thursday, “What makes a casino a casino is that a cut of the winning is saved for the house. The laws are so restrictive now that a person’s home is deemed a casino.

Reznik’s bill would allow a home game host to benefit from the game but only as far as the profits won as a result of playing in the game. Any other fees collected during the game would make the operation an underground casino.

Examples of such fees include tournament fees, rake collected during cash games and tips giving while dealing a game. Also, any type of mandatory “tips” or “contributions” collected in a home game could possibly constitute financial gain.


Home Games Will Not Impact Local Casinos

One concern over such legislation is that it would negatively impact live casinos in the state. Holmes claims that home game poker will not take away business form live casinos. Resnik also says that he’s spoken to various law enforcement officials and they support the bill.

Thinking that home game poker would take away from live casino action is actually counterintuitive. Many new players to poker prefer to play in private home games while they learn the game and improve their skills. Once they are more comfortable, especially if they are winning players, they tend to transition to the live arena.

James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.