Indiana Considers Private Card Game Decriminalization Bill

On Wednesday, the Indiana Senate Public Policy Committee passed a bill 10-0 that would decriminalize private poker games and other forms of casino-style gaming in people’s private residences.

The legislation, SB 434, was briefly discussed during the hearing in Indianapolis.

One of the members of the committee remarked that law enforcement in the state has informed policymakers that there’s an “epidemic” of gambling going on in “people’s garages and houses.”

The legislation sets limits

The legislation would establish specific requirements for legal “private low stakes card games.” In its current form, the bill would cap wagers at $20 and limit games to four times per month at a single residence and the number of participants to 12, among other criteria.

The backer of the legislation, state Sen. Michael Young, a Republican, informed the committee that he was open to changing the criteria in order to accommodate poker games that have multiple tables, such as a multi-table tournament. One lawmaker pointed out some of these issues with the bill.

Young testifying Wednesday

Hosts of these private card games would not be allowed to profit from the gambling except for their personal winnings. Under current Indiana law, a rake-free private home poker game is technically illegal, though the law is not enforced. This situation exists in other states in the country.

“We don’t want someone’s basement or garage to turn into a miniature casino,” one Hoosier State lawmaker remarked with concerns about expanding the criteria of what is allowed in a private game. “Poker is played in our casinos and they pay for that license.”

The committee expressed that it is interested in “allow[ing] a friendly neighborhood poker game,” but that it also wants to “make sure this doesn’t get out of hand.”

The Indiana Gaming Commission wasn’t present at the hearing. A second hearing has yet to be scheduled.