Thursday, October 15, 2009

Washington County Flim Flam

State v. Smith, no. 08-1757 (Iowa Ct. App. October 7, 2009)

Smith was convicted of violating Iowa Code section 99F.15(4)(i). I must confess I'd never encountered this charge in the lexicon of Bad Stuff That People Do so I went to the Code.

99F concerns itself with the activities that take place in riverboats and casinos. Here's what it says:

4. A person commits a class "D" felony and, in addition, shall bebarred for life from excursion gambling boats and gambling structuresunder the jurisdiction of the commission, if the person does any ofthe following: i. Claims, collects, or takes, or attempts to claim, collect, or take, money or anything of value in or from the gambling games, with intent to defraud, without having made a wager contingent on winning a gambling game, or claims, collects, or takes an amount of money or thing of value of greater value than the amount won.

So here's the story.

Smith was playing blackjack at the Riverside Casino in Washington County and he was "capping"-that is, surreptitiously adding chips to his bet after the dealer has received his cards.

It's cheating, all right. But the question the court had to answer was whether the section Smith was charged under applied to the facts of what he did.

In interpreting the statute the court found support in a Michigan decision interpreting that state's statute which was identical to the Iowa statute. That case, which was affirmed, concerned a person who altered lottery tickets and cashed them. The statute, the court noted, was intended to apply to frauds where a person used an artifice collect more than they'd actually won, rather than cheating itself.

The court reversed, holding that capping does not violate the specific section of the Code, ordering that the charge be dismissed.

What I don't get is why Smith was not charged with a violation of 99F.15(4)(d), which says:

Cheats at a gambling game.

The point is, in case you missed it, is : Read the bloody statute.


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