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Maryland House votes to OK some small-stakes gambling in home

, The Baltimore Sun

The House of Delegates unanimously voted Thursday to legalize small-stakes card games in homes and senior-living facilities, sending the bill to the Senate for consideration.

Maryland law currently forbids even penny-ante games among family members -- a provision many consider archaic and intrusive.

The bill allows people 21 or older to host a card or mahjong game that includes betting in a private home or a 55-and-older residential community, as long as certain conditions are met.

Players would have to compete directly against each other, with no house percentage. Players would have to have a "pre-existing social relationship." Players could not be charged an entry fee. And the time and place of the games could not be advertised.

The legislation would limit the betting to $500 a day. That would likely allow such gatherings as a poker night, as long as the betting limit was kept relatively low.

Del. Kirill Reznik, the Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House, said there is companion legislation pending in the Senate.

A similar bill was passed by the Senate two years ago, but stalled in the House.

Reznik said small-stake games are legal in Virginia and Washington, D.C. He said it's time for Maryland's ban to fall.

"It's rarely enforced, and it's a complete waste of police resources and time," he said.

Reznik pointed to a recent incident in which police were called to break up a mahjong game at an Annapolis senior community because there was betting.

"I imagine police have better things to do," Reznik said.

General Assembly fiscal analysts projected no impact to state or local revenues.

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