January 25th, 2011 | Uncategorized

MAGAZINE | A hope for a Casino Night revival?

While reporting last month’s article “Poker Face,” I interviewed Ken Adams ’67, a lawyer and professional poker player in Washington, D.C. Mr. Adams described to me how Connecticut law (unlike law in most other states) prevents risking money for games that are dependent in whole or in part on chance, outlawing not only entirely chance-based games like roulette but also games like poker that are legal in most other states.

Still it seems that this law should not prohibit Yale’s formerly-beloved Casino Night, in which students only gambled fake money. In my article I spoke about how the Connecticut law’s ban on the use of gambling equipment precipitated the demise of Casino Night. But what about the games, like poker, that do not involve such equipment?

As it turns out, the death of Casino night came with the repeal of the charity gaming law in 2003—a law which would have exempted casino night from being shut down. I followed up with Adams to ask him a few questions about his opinion on the future fate of Casino Night:

Q What were the Connecticut Legislature’s motivations in repealing the charity gaming law?

A I am told that it was done at the behest of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, who want a monopoly on gaming in Connecticut and who give a lot of money to political campaigns.

Q Have other states had similar laws repealed in the recent past and why? Or is this an anomaly?

A It’s the only one I know of.

Q How did this law apply to Casino Night, which did not use real money?

A In my view it doesn’t, for exactly that reason. The one possible exception would be if Casino Night used craps tables or roulette wheels or blackjack tables, as the statute prohibits the use of gaming tables and machines. But as long as they are not using any such equipment, I don’t think there is any legal prohibition against Casino Night.

Q Is there any possibility of Casino Night returning under this law?

A That depends on whether the States Attorney’s office agrees with my interpretation of the law.

Q Is there anything else you would like to add about the issue?

A Only that it would be absurd to apply statutes designed to restrict gambling, to prohibit a university-sponsored and supervised event in which students get together and have fun, using play money.

So, Yalies, if you would like to bring back Casino Night (I myself was never able to experience the party that received a seal of approval from Rolling Stone but imagine that it was better than it’s replacement event—Prohibition), come together to speak to President Levin and the Connecticut State Attorney’s Office.