Town of Mount Pleasant v. Chimento

Nathan Stallings leased a home in Mt. Pleasant where he lived with his fiancee and a roommate. He used an internet networking site to meet other poker players, and established a regular Sunday night game in his home. Players would buy into the game for a minimum of $5 and a maximum of $20. Respondents Robert Chimento, Scott Richards, Michael Williamson, Jeremy Brestel and John Willis were convicted in municipal court of violating S.C. Code Ann. 16-19-40(a) (2003) which made it unlawful to "play . . . in any house used as a place of gaming . . . any game with cards. . . ." after they were found playing Texas Hold'em and gambling in Stallings' home. On appeal, the circuit court reversed respondents’ convictions finding they were entitled to directed verdicts or, alternatively, that section 16-19-40(a) was unconstitutional. The municipal judge found, based on expert testimony presented by the respondents, that Texas Hold'em is a game of skill. The municipal judge also held that if a game of skill were without the ambit of gaming, then he would acquit the respondents, but that there was no clear indication whether the legislature intended to criminalize only gambling on games of chance. At the hearing, the municipal judge declined to find section 16-19-40 unconstitutional. The circuit court reversed, and the Town appealed that order. The issues before the Supreme Court were reduced to: (1) whether respondents were entitled to directed verdicts because betting money on a game of skill at a residence is not prohibited by section 16-19-40; and (2) if respondents were not entitled to directed verdicts, should their convictions have been set aside because section 16-19-40(a) was unconstitutional? The Court found that the circuit court erred in reversing respondents' convictions, and therefore the order on appeal is itself was reversed. View "Town of Mount Pleasant v. Chimento" on Justia Law