In Florida, it is unlawful to participate in gambling activity involving games of “chance” where money or property is put at risk. Gambling crimes may carry misdemeanor or felony penalties, depending on whether the accused merely participated in the game or facilitated the game by maintaining or managing a gambling establishment.
Pursuant to Florida Statute 849.08, “gambling” is defined as “Whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro, or other game of chance, at any place or by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value.”
To prove the crime of gambling, the State of Florida must establish the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused played or engaged in a game of chance;
- The accused risked money or property on the outcome of the game; and
- The accused expected to gain or lose money or property as a result of the game.
To obtain a conviction, it is not necessary that the money or property risked in the game actually belong to the accused. Money or property belonging to others will suffice to support the charge.
Under Florida law, gambling is classified as a second degree misdemeanor, carrying penalties of up to 60 days in jail or six months probation, and a $500.00 fine.
Maintaining a Gambling Establishment
To support a conviction for this offense, the State of Florida must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused (in person or by a servant, clerk, employee, or agent) had a substantial degree of control over and kept or maintained a gaming table or room, or gaming implements or apparatus, or house, booth, tent, shelter or other place for the purpose of gaming or gambling.
- The place was habitually kept or maintained for the purpose of gambling.
A single instance or rare and isolated instance of placing bets or gambling is insufficient to constitute a crime. However, if the property was used at frequent intervals as a place or means for betting, gaming, or gambling, the crime has been committed, even if the principal use of the property is for some other lawful purpose.
To constitute “maintaining a gambling establishment,” it is not necessary to prove that the defendant gambled or received any profit from the gambling. It is also not required that the accused wholly own or control the subject property.
Furthermore, it is not necessary for a conviction that there be direct and positive evidence of gambling. It is sufficient if implements, devices, or apparatus commonly used by gambling houses or by gamblers are found under circumstances that can convince a jury that the premises were kept or maintained for the purpose of gambling.
Pursuant to Florida law, Maintaining a Gambling Establishment is a Felony of the Third Degree and is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000.0 fine.
Defenses to Gambling Charges
There are many defenses available to contest a charge of gambling. These defenses can be legal or factual in nature:
- Was the search or seizure leading to the discovery of the gambling activity lawful pursuant to the Fourth Amendment?
- If police served a warrant, was the warrant executed properly?
- Can the State prove that the accused actually played the game, and was not merely an observer?
- If the accused admitted to gambling, is there independent evidence (corpus delicti) establish all of the elements of a gambling crime?
If you have been accused of gambling or maintaining a gambling establishment contact David J. Sobel directly on his cell phone at 954-383-3000.