So you enjoy a good card game and you like to bet a few coins; that’s legal, right? Well, maybe. These are called penny-ante games, most commonly associated with poker, with pennies generally serving as the highest bid possible during a given play. However, any card game where wagers and winnings are made can be played as a penny ante game. The Condominium Act does not address this issue, but in a related statute, Section 849.085, there is a specific reference to penny-ante games.
Let’s start with the fact that it is not a crime for a person to participate in such a game if conducted strictly in accordance with the statute. A “penny-ante game” is defined as game or series of games of poker, pinochle, bridge, rummy, canasta, hearts, dominoes, or mah-jongg in which the winnings of any play in a single round, hand or game do not exceed $10 in value. The game must be conducted in a dwelling, defined in relevant part as, “residential premises owned or rented by a participant in a penny-ante game and occupied by such participant or the common elements or common areas of a condominium . .. of which a participant in a penny-ante game is a unit owner.
Keep in mind the following according to Section 849.085:
- the game must be conducted in a dwelling;
- a person may not receive any consideration or commission for allowing a penny-ante game to occur in his or her dwelling;
- a person may not directly or indirectly charge admission or any other fee for participation it the game;
- a person may not solicit participants by means of advertising in any form, advertise the time or place of any penny-ante game, or advertise the fact that he or she will be a participant in any penny-ante game;
- a penny-ante game may not be conducted in which any participant is under 18 years of age; and
- a debt created or owed as a consequence of any penny-ante game is not legally enforceable.
The conduct of any penny-ante game within the common elements or common area of a condominium, cooperative, residential subdivision, or mobile home park or the conduct of any penny-ante game within the dwelling of an eligible organization creates no civil liability for damages arising from the penny-ante game on the part of a condominium association, cooperative association, a homeowners’ association, mobile home owners’ association, dwelling owner, or on the part of a unit owner who was not a participant in the game.
Therefore, if you have clubs that regularly conduct activities on your condominium property and they are sending out flyers or advertisements, check the content of such flyers with your legal counsel to ensure that they have not crossed a line making an otherwise legal pastime one that violates the law.
As for bingo games, Section 718.114 provides that a condominium association may conduct bingo games pursuant to Section 849.0931(4):
The right of a condominium association, a cooperative association, a homeowners’ association . . . to conduct bingo is conditioned upon the return of the net proceeds from such games to players in the form of prizes after having deducted the actual business expenses for such games for articles designed for and essential to the operation, conduct, and playing of bingo. Any net proceeds remaining after paying prizes may be donated by the association to a charitable, nonprofit, or veterans’ organization which is exempt from federal income tax under the provisions of s. 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code to be used in such recipient organization’s charitable, civic, community, benevolent, religious, or scholastic works or similar activities or, in the alternative, such remaining proceeds shall be used as specified in subsection (3).
Enjoy your gaming – as long as you do it within the boundaries established by the Statute.