Seal_of_South_Carolina.svgSince 1802, South Carolina law has prohibited the playing of games that involve cards or dice.

South Carolina Code of Laws, Section 16-19-40: If any person shall play… any game with cards or dice… except the games of billiards, bowls, backgammon, chess, draughts, or whist when there is no betting… shall be imprisoned for a period of not over thirty days or fined not over one hundred dollars, and every person [hosting such game]… be imprisoned for a period not exceeding twelve months and forfeit a sum not exceeding two thousand dollars, for each and every offense.

Lest you think this is just some moldy old law that everyone has the better sense to ignore, I call your attention to the events of May 2013, when after South Carolina state police warned a retirement community that the Bridge and Canasta groups using its meeting rooms were illegal, the community banned all future games.

Stepping up in an attempt to rectify this strange state of affairs, the South Carolina Legislature has just passed S779, “An Act… To Provide That Certain Social Tiles, Cards, And Dice Games Are Not Unlawful Under Certain Circumstances”.

Unfortunately, while the new rule clearly states that:

It is not unlawful for persons… to gather for the purpose of engaging in games of tiles, cards, or dice including, but not limited to, canasta, mahjong, and bridge.

It also limits that permission to:

  • “Persons who are members of a club or other social organization… [where] a bona fide social relationship among the participants exists.”
  • Games where “no mechanical or electronic devices or machines of any kind… are used or incorporated in any way.”
  • Situations where “no person or entity… [or] host of the game or owner or lessee of the location in which the games are played… receive[s] any direct or indirect economic, financial, or monetary benefit of any kind.”
  • Gatherings where “there is no betting, wagering, or gambling of any kind.”
  • Games where “except for the advantage of skill or luck, the risks of losing or winning are the same for all parties.”

So, no playing games with strangers; no card-shufflers, timers, buzzers, computers, or tablets; no game store play spaces, conventions, or tournaments; and only perfectly balanced games allowed?

Also note the still remaining South Carolina Code of Laws, Section 16-19-70:

Whoever shall keep or suffer to be kept any gaming table or permit any game or games to be played in his house on the Sabbath day, on conviction thereof before any court having jurisdiction, shall be fined in the sum of fifty dollars, to be sued for on behalf of, and to be recovered for the use of, the State.