Each state has a unique set of gambling laws regarding what gambling is, how it works, where and when it can be done, and what happens if you’re gambling illegally in certain municipalities. It’s important to know the laws of your state in order to keep out of hot water and know that what you’re doing is not only fun, but also squeaky clean. After all, if there is a business running illegal gambling in your state, chances are they’re not only cheating the law, they’re cheating you too. Definition of Gambling The basic definition of gambling, as defined by Alabama state law, is something that is “a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence” in which a person bets anything whether it is money, a car, a house, labor, a box of Girl Scout cookies… anything. Although certain things, like insurance policy payouts, are sometimes dictated by chance, they are protected by the law as being defined as “bona fide business transactions protected under the law of contracts.” Gambling is further defined by what they deem a “gambling machine.” Simply put, it is any device, machine, paraphernalia [sic] or equipment” that is specifically used to aid or perform any gambling activities whether or not that gambling takes place between individuals or between individuals and the machine. The law makes specific exceptions for “lottery tickets, policy slips and other items used in the playing phases of lottery and policy schemes.” Illegal Gambling As with any gambling laws, there are a lot of sentences associated with illegal gambling and various interesting gambling laws on the books, some of which protect players or casinos. In Alabama, most gambling related crimes are Class A misdemeanors that can result in up to one year in jail although “simple gambling” (basically, having poker night in your basement) is only a Class C misdemeanor or up to three months in jail. Some of these crimes include: The possession or creation of gambling documents for “bookmaking schemes” (specifically those that contain over five bets or $500 worth of bets) The possession of gambling equipment or paraphernalia The conspiracy to promote gambling Promoting gambling Casinos The state bans casinos entirely though there are exceptions to this law. There are three operational Native American casinos in the state, though none of them have table games. These entirely electronic casinos are protected by the fact that many Native American reservations have sovereignty laws that specifically protect gaming rights. The law that specifically deals with gaming on Native American land is the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. This allows reservations to receive revenue through gambling by opening and self-regulating casino activities within their own jurisdiction. Although this allows them to open casinos, it does not allow them to open casinos outside of the reservation limits. As mentioned above, most gambling laws carry a Class A misdemeanor charge or a (relatively) small fine. One group in particular, the Alabama Policy Institute, is extremely opposed to gambling and wishes to make owning gambling paraphernalia a Class C felony which can result in between one to ten years imprisonment. This anti-gambling activism is due to the fact that gaming facilities can still find loopholes in the law that allow them to engage in gambling as a few people tried to do before November 2009, when Alabama revised their bingo laws (bingo halls and events are legal for nonprofits in Alabama) to more strictly define bingo. It is interesting how the court felt that they needed to define the game of bingo but how strictly they define bingo is honestly hilarious. According to the case Barber v Cornerstone Community Outreach, bingo is defined with six points. The verbatim from the case is fairly long and cumbersome so I’ll provide a shortened version. For your consideration, the definition of bingo under Alabama state law: It’s a one-player game on a five-by-five board that has to have alphanumeric coordinates for each box. The boxes are selected randomly and one at a time. Each player must pay attention (yes, it specifically says that the players must pay attention) and “physically act” in order to mark their card in the correct box. The player must pay attention because if they don’t then they might not win. The player must know how to win and recognize if they have won and then announce their win. The game is a group activity that follows the rules laid out in numbers one through five. This is by no means a comprehensive look at Alabama’s state laws regarding gambling, but is just a quick look at some of the most important and relevant parts of the laws and sentencing. Hopefully this helps you understand a little bit about your state and your state’s views on gambling and the laws thereof.