There are many bars in Washington, D.C., where one can find a free poker tournament. Such events draw in a diverse crowd of customers and allow patrons to have fun with activities other than drinking. But some outdated laws still on the books in Wyoming prevents bars from hosting these free and friendly games. This year though, state lawmakers intend to change things in the Equality State.
In 2004, a state attorney general issued an opinion that made serving food or drinks to anyone playing poker in a bar a felony charge for the establishment’s owners. In 2007, the decision was essentially reversed with a bill that legalized patron-organized gambling in bars.
Republican state Senator Bruce Burns wants to further clarify the law, making it legal for bar owners to organize the free friendly poker tournaments in their establishments. He also wants to change the rule that requires players to have a “bona fide relationship” prior to the game — meaning they would have to be standing friends, co-workers, etc. in order to legally play a game of poker.
Of course, bars will make some extra money from bringing in new customers of keeping current patrons in the bar longer, but I don’t see why that is a problem for some lawmakers in the first place. The whole point of a business establishment is to make a profit, and if customers willingly sit down at the bar or the poker table, who is to say that it is not a legitimate way to make that profit? Besides, it seems like a better idea to have bar patrons engaging in games rather than simply pounding back shots of liquor or getting into a fight with their barstool-neighbor. Gambling and, in particular poker, has been shown to have a number of positive benefits for players, including improved strategic thinking, math ability, and simply improving social skills. Some studies even show that playing poker wards of Alzheimer’s disease.
On a personal note, I have played in a few D.C. bar poker tournaments and was most struck by the diversity of the group I was playing with. Many people around the table were yuppies just off from work, but there were also college students, bar employees, and residents of the Northeast D.C. neighborhood where the bar was located (for out-of-towners, this is not the wealthiest part of the city). There are far worse things a lot of these people could be doing rather than playing a friendly, but competitive poker game.
It’s about time everyone, not just Wyoming lawmakers, get over the old idea that gambling is a negative behavior, that it is evil, or that it is anyone’s right to tell others that they can’t play.