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Illegal Betting or Wagering

gambling lawyer

Bob and Sam are out at the basketball court and are playing basketball. Sam says to Bob, “I bet $20 that I can score on you 10 or more points in the next 3 minutes.” Bob responds, “You’re on!” What Bob and Sam just did was illegal in Florida.

Chapter 849 of the Florida Statutes speaks to the topic of gambling. Lotteries are illegal, except the state run Florida Lottery. Betting money or anything of value on a contest is illegal in Florida, unless it falls into an exception under Chapter 849, Chapter 550, and Chapter 551.

The Florida Supreme Court has held that it does not matter that "whether the parties betting be the actors in the event upon which their wager is laid or not . . . ." McBride v. State, 22 So. 711, 713 (Fla. 1897). It is illegal to bet on yourself or on others.

Contests of Chance vs. Contest of Skill

Florida courts have generally looked at contests of chance as chance being the predominate element of who receives the money while contests of skill have skill as the predominate factor in determining the winner. Bowing, golf, archery, football, or basketball are all games of skill while poker, keno, roulette, blackjack are all games of chance. Florida does allow money to be won in a contest of skill with a prize from a third party donor.

Stakes, Bets, or Wagers vs. Purse, Prize, or Premium

Stake, bets, or wagers are associated with games of chance while purses, prize, or premiums are what are won in games of skill. To not violate this law, the prize money has to be put up by a third party sponsor or donor. The Florida Supreme Court explained, “[T]he donor or person offering the [prize or purse] has no chance of gaining back the thing offered but, if he abides by his offer, he must lose it, whereas” the bettor has a chance to win or lose. Pompano Horse Club v. State, 111 So. 801, 813 (Fla. 1927).

Where people can get into trouble is where they all chip into one pot their own bets and create their own prize. This has been considered by the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Attorney General’s office to be violations of this law, see AGO 91-03, while entry fees to a contest that do not make up the prize money, but the prize money comes from the general assets of the sponsor, is legal, see AGO 90-59; otherwise, “ we would have to find all contests of skill or ability in which there is an entry fee and prizes to be gambling. The list could be endless: golf tournaments, dog shows, beauty contests . . . to name a few. No one seriously considers such activities to be gambling. . . .” Faircloth v. Central Florida Fair, Inc., 202 So.2d 608, 609 (Fla. 4th DCA 1967).

Florida Statute 849.141 makes an exception for “bowling tournament conducted at a bowling center which requires the payment of entry fees, from which fees the winner receives a purse or prize.”

What the State Prosecutor has to Prove to Convict a Defendant of This Crime

The state prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant staked, bet, or wagered money or something of value; and
  2. He did so upon the result of a trial or contest skill, speed, power, or endurance of man or beast.


This crime is a second-degree misdemeanor which is punishable up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Contact the Law Office of Roger P. Foley, P.A.

If you have been charged with this crime, call our law offices now. We can schedule a 5 minute free consultation where you can meet with one of our Wellington Illegal Betting Attorneys and discuss the case. Our attorneys will answer your questions and help you with resolving this problem.

The information you tell us at the consultation will be important to creating a defense for your case. We will then talk to the prosecutor to see if we can get the case not filed or dropped. Our Wellington Illegal Betting Attorneys are willing and able to take your case all the way to trial to get you a good result, if needed. If the situation is that there is overwhelming evidence against you, we will do everything possible to mitigate the sentence with the prosecutor and/or judge so that you acquire the best possible outcome based on your facts.

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