Louisiana Legal Online Poker Laws

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Louisiana Legal Poker Sites

Relevant state code: 14:90 et seq.; 27:201 et seq.

Louisiana has one of the more complicated and ambiguous approaches to unregulated gambling that you'll find among US states.  The state takes a very fairly strict approach to the handling of what it considers illegal gambling, and features possibly the most frustrating definition of gambling in the US:

Section 14:90(A)(1)(a)
Gambling is the intentional conducting, or directly assisting in the conducting, as a business, of any game, contest, lottery, or contrivance whereby a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit.

That definition would be fairly standard if it were not for one fact:  Louisiana law does not provide a ready definition of "as a business," creating a massive amount of ambiguity at the heart of their anti-gambling law.

If you do end up in violation of Louisiana law regarding gambling, what sort of penalties will you be facing?  Again, the law is unclear on some points; it appears to delineate charges for participants from charges for operators, but it could also be read as delineating between operators and accessories. 

Either way, one thing's for certain:  Louisiana has some pretty stiff penalties for those involved, directly or indirectly, in the business of illegal gambling.  Up to five years in jail and $20,000 in fines await anyone who "conducts, finances, manages, supervises, directs, or owns all or part of an illegal gambling business." 

What Gambling Does Louisiana Allow Legally?

A fair amount.  Licensed commercial and tribal casinos are legal in Louisiana.  Pari-mutuel wagering at horse tracks is fine, but dog racing is not on the menu.  Louisiana has a state lottery.

Louisiana does not have a specific exemption for social gambling or home poker games.  However, as an opinion from the Louisiana Attorney (10-0027) concluded, Louisiana gambling law does not appear to be intended to cover gambling between individuals:

This section prohibits gambling as a business but does not prohibit gambling between individuals. Gandolfo v. Louisiana State Racing Commission, 78 So 2d 504 (La. 1955); State v. Davis, 23 So.2d 801 (La. 1945). Therefore, an essential element of a gambling violation is that the activity be conducted as a business and that someone receive a benefit other than the participants.

From that, one could conclude that social gambling where no bank, house, cut or charge exists is well within the guidelines of Louisiana state law.

Louisiana allows a wide array of charitable gambling activities to be conducted by licensed operators, including keno, casino nights, bingo and raffles.  More information is available at the Louisiana Office of Charitable Gaming.

Can I Play Real Money Poker Legally in Louisiana?

Poker is available and quite legal at any of the many regulated options in Louisiana.

Home games where no one takes a rake or otherwise profits from the operation of the game seem clearly legal for players to take part in.  The question of "profit" is a sticky one once the poker game leaves the home and moves into a commercial environment, like a bar - but even in the instance where a bar operating a poker game was found to be in violation of the law, it does not appear that players in the game would face charges.

Can I Use Online Poker Sites and Online Casinos in Louisiana? 

Louisiana does have a law addressing online gambling and poker sites.  Section 14:90.3 covers Gambling By Computer, defined as such:

Section 14:90.3(B)
Gambling by computer is the intentional conducting, or directly assisting in the conducting as a business of any game, contest, lottery, or contrivance whereby a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit when accessing the Internet, World Wide Web, or any part thereof by way of any computer, computer system, computer network, computer software, or any server.

Sound familiar?  It should - it's quite similar to the highly problematic general definition of gambling offered up by Louisiana law.  While it's far from a matter of settled law, it is easy to conclude that individual gamblers simply are not covered by this provision of Louisiana law.  Remember, a critical part of a gambling violation in Louisiana is that the gambling is conducted as a business - that someone other than the mere participants profits (or attempts to profit).  We see no reason why the law regarding online gambling in Louisiana should be read any differently.

One thing worth noting about the law, however, is that it effectively expands the scope of charges against operators to potentially include a wide variety of individuals who may be only peripherally related to the online gambling business:

Section 14:90.3(E)
Whoever designs, develops, manages, supervises, maintains, provides, or produces any computer services, computer system, computer network, computer software, or any server providing a Home Page, Web Site, or any other product accessing the Internet, World Wide Web, or any part thereof offering to any client for the primary purpose of the conducting as a business of any game, contest, lottery, or contrivance whereby a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit shall be fined not more than twenty thousand dollars, or imprisoned with or without hard labor, for not more than five years, or both.

That's about as broad as you can get and would certainly ensnare individuals with no intent to violate the law or knowledge of a product's ultimate use if applied aggressively.

Louisiana Gambling Laws: Fun Facts
Persons who "maintain themselves by gambling" are guilty of vagrancy under Louisiana law. 

Louisiana gambling regulations require that casino machines must pay out between 80% and 99.% of total wagers.

Louisiana: Online Gambling Headlines

Louisiana, along with Washington State, was part of a fairly epic legal saga involving an online market place for bets back in 2008.

Since that time, Louisiana has made few headlines in the world of online gambling.

Is Louisiana Likely to Regulate and Legalize Online Poker Soon?

It's certainly possible.  Optimists can point to the broad array of regulated gambling the state, the lack of a constitutional hurdle to online poker, the presence of online poker advocate Caesar's in the state's casino industry and the general social acceptance of gambling among the population of the state as reasons why Louisiana might take up online poker regulation. 

Pessimists have plenty of ammunition on their side as well.  The big bullet, as it were:  The absolute lack of legislation seeking to legalize online poker sites to date.  The state's population of 4.5 million people is a bit thin for a standalone poker network, but there's no reason to believe Louisiana wouldn't be able to attract and maintain partnerships for an interstate network of poker sites.

All in all, Louisiana would seem to be a fairly hospitable environment for online poker site regulation, but it appears neither industry leaders nor legislators are currently motivated to take up the issue.  That would likely change once another state proved a working model for online poker regulation, so we rate Louisiana as a fair chance to regulate online poker in the short term.

Written by Christine Davies

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