Legal Home Poker Games Coming To Maryland?

Technically speaking, anyone caught playing at a home poker game in the state of Maryland could be hit with a $1,000 fine and face up to a year behind bars, regardless of the stakes involved. In reality, however, Maryland residents are highly unlikely to find themselves the target of police action, leaving legislators to now contemplate a change to the state’s archaic law.
On Thursday, 25th February, House lawmakers subsequently overwhelmingly voted in favor of scrapping any criminal penalties associated with poker home games, with a House Bill sponsored by Maryland House of Delegates member Kirill Reznik, HB 127, laying out some conditions for organizing and playing such events.
According to HB 127, anyone aged 21 years and over would be permitted to hold a home game provided it is not held at the persons’s home more than once a week, and it involves players who “share a preexisting social relationship.” In addition, players will not be allowed to have more than a combined $500 at the poker table, a figure significantly lower than the $2,000 table limit Reznik previously suggested, but was insisted upon by his fellow lawmakers. As the language of the bill now states:
“..a limit of $500 on the total amount of money, tokens representing money, or any other thing or consideration of value that may be wagered by all players during any 24-hour period.”
HB 127 also states that it would be against the law to advertise any home games, and that only the winning player or players at the table are allowed to benefit financially from the poker game.
The House Bill currently has 17 sponsors, and also has a companion bill in the Maryland Senate. Nevertheless, it could still face resistance from casino operators and some lawmakers who apparently view HB 127 as an attempt to expand gambling in the state. Part of their argument is that if casinos are able to offer legal poker game, then there should be no need for people to have to organize their own friendly games at home.

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