Whilst most of us were celebrating the results of the Oscars, largely because the tips we offered here – cmon eight out of nine ain’t bad – our transatlantic cousins in the good old US of A were looking nervously over their shoulders to see whether or not there were Feds under the bed.
This is because in America betting on any contest that is based solely on luck is considered a lottery and prohibited by law. Which, believe it or not, means that even an innocent office sweepstake can result in the boys in blue smashing the door down and hauling yo’ ass off to the local jailhouse.
Of course in the case of the Oscars, whether or not correctly predicting the winner or not constitutes a skill factor is open to debate. Most U.S. jurisdictions apply a so-called “Dominant Factor test” in assessing whether a particular competition can be construed as gambling.
In the past, courts have found that while poker does include an element of skill it is illegal due to the greater amount of luck. This in itself is a ludicrous finding, because that means that the likes of Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu and Doyle Brunson, who regular beat hundreds of competitors to win poker tournaments and have become millionaires as a result, are just a bunch of lucky bastards.
Nonetheless, don’t fuck with Uncle Sam coz he ain’t listening. Just ask the ask the Old Aged Pensioners at Twin Falls Senior Center, whose $20 buy-in poker night was raided by the Old Bill after an anonymous tip-off. The outlaws in question were told that nothing in Idaho law permits gambling at any age.
So, Oscar sweepstakes and friends’ betting ring winners around America are today waiting for that hand on the shoulder the minute they collect their winnings and the cold, emotionless words predicting their fate. ‘Son, you are going down,’ it will say. ‘There was no skill involved whatsover here. You just followed the tips posted up on Calvinayre.com.’
Of course America being America, the same rules don’t apply for fantasy sports games. They have been given the legal all-clear because they are perceived to be overwhelmingly about knowledge rather than the random all-consuming luck involved in poker – and of course it has nothing to do with the fact that the judges couldn’t get through the week without checking how well their teams have got on every Tuesday morning.
The best part of winning an office Oscar pool in America is that you then also have to declare your winnings to the tax man, which could in turn alert the authorities. So what do you do? Take the money and run? Risk being grassed up by Brian in accounts, who has hated you ever since you got off with Miranda from reception at the Christmas party?
These grey areas are just a drop in the ocean of America’s complicated, hypocritical and insane legal approach towards gambling and they will eventually be righted by Barney Frank’s gambling bill but why is that a country that is so advanced in so many ways continues to be more embarrassing than an Oscar-winning speech?