HICKS COLUMN: Place your bets on when Supreme Court will rule on poker
When Bob Chimento and his attorneys walked out of their state Supreme Court hearing, they all went out for a nice dinner.
It felt like a celebration would be a safe bet.
On that day, Chimento and his co-defendants had made their case that there’s nothing illegal about playing low-stakes poker in your home.
They won a major point when the state Attorney General’s Office conceded that infrequent, low-stakes poker games in homes don’t violate South Carolina law. That seemed to stun Chief Justice Jean Toal.
“I am surprised that you made that concession,” she said.
So Chimento thought he would get some closure on a case that had been hanging over his head since the days of the George W. Bush administration.
That celebratory dinner was two years ago today. And the Supreme Court still hasn’t issued its ruling.
This whole thing passed “ridiculous” several miles back.
Chimento and his poker buddies were originally busted by Mount Pleasant police in 2006. They were fined $100 — well, $267.50 after the state and county tacked on their fees.
In 2009, a circuit judge ruled that they were not guilty, that Texas Hold ’em is not a game of chance — well, not if you play it right — so these guys did nothing illegal.
To be clear, the state gambling law is a joke left over from 1802. If taken literally, it would make Monopoly a misdemeanor and fill our jails with 4-year-olds for playing Candyland.
Yet a state lottery is just fine.
The law is stupid, it’s out of touch — and it’s still in place because the Legislature is, at heart, filled with chickens. They are scared of Bible Belt voters in the Upstate, who probably still think dancing is a sin.
Chimento says that’s the holdup on his Hold ’em case: If the Supremes sided with the lower court, it could pave the way for card rooms in the state. So maybe, he thinks, the Supreme Court is waiting for the Legislature to wise up and fix state law.
The odds of that are about the same as hitting a royal flush on the flop.
Chimento still plays poker now and then. And why not, since everyone says it’s legal.
He doesn’t play as much as he did since he’s now married and raising grandchildren.
Those grandkids may be out of college by the time this case is over. April will mark seven years since he was busted in the “raid” — if you can call it that.
The Mount Pleasant Six, as they once were called, have gotten a permit to picket in front of the high court, and they have toyed with the idea of setting up a card table in front of the courthouse to play a few hands for charity.
They aren’t sure when that might happen.
It’s a fairly safe bet no one would stop them. The Legislature has made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t want to wade into the state’s antiquated and hypocritical gambling laws.
It’s a good thing state officials aren’t poker players, because they’re way too easy to read.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com.