The argument of luck vs. skill will take a new stage starting Tuesday. According to a report in the Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraska lawmakers will consider whether to legalize the game of poker on the basis that it is a skill game.
State Senator Tyson Larson will reportedly introduce a bill into the Nebraska state legislature on Thursday that would seek tolegalize Hold’em and Draw poker as skill games, thereby circumventing the state’s ban on gambling.
State Constitution Does Not Ban Skill Games
Nebraska law currently bans most gambling involving elements of chance. It does not address games of skill such as chess, video games, etc. Larson’s plan is to submit a bill that points out the skillful nature of poker, therefore making it legal.
As Lawson stated, “You can be a professional poker player; you cannot be a professional coin flipper. You can lose a poker game on purpose; you can’t lose a coin flip on purpose. You can have the worst hand in poker but be the best player.” He continued, “The math is there; the statistics are there. Poker is a game of skill; it is not a game of chance.”
If passed, bars would have to buy a special endorsement on their liquor license in order to spread the games. Other groups, including nonprofit organizations, can also apply for a short-term license.
Poker games would be taxed at a 5 percent flat rate for both cash games and poker tournaments. Funds collected through legalized poker would then be split three ways. Half will go to the state’s property tax credit fund, while 49 percent would go to local governments where games are held. The last 1 percent would go into a fund to combat problem gambling.
Poker Bill One of Many Aggressive Moves by Larson
Larson has several bills in the current legislature that could be considered controversial, including a measure that would permit bars to remain open 24/7. Another measure he’s proposed, LB118, would remove the state’s smoking ban for cigar bars. Another would remove five-minute breaks between keno games. Keno is one of the few gambling games currently permitted in Nebraska.
Each of Larson’s prior measures is scheduled for hearings later this month. With regard to his poker bill, Larson expects that it will be advanced to the legislature for debate. Larson’s bill is not the only one that would expand gaming. Senator Paul Schumacher has proposed a constitutional amendment, LR10CA, that would remove the state’s ban on gambling.
The gambling amendment does not appear to have the legs to pass and attitudes toward general gambling expansion do not seem favorable. The question now remains whether Larson’s evidence toward poker being a skill game will be enough to push his bill through. Poker still employs a small element of chance, an element highlighted in tournament play. Will lawmakers look past this and agree with what most poker players already know, or will poker players in Nebraska have to continue to drive out of state to play their favorite game?