Copyright (c) 2011 Drake University
Drake Law Review
ARTICLE: CARNIVAL GAMES: WALKING THE LINE BETWEEN ILLEGAL GAMBLING AND AMUSEMENT
Drake Law Review
60 Drake L. Rev. 41
J. Royce Fichtner*
Carnival games 1 have a long and checkered history with the law. Beyond the battles to keep fraudulent games off the midway, 2 there have also been legal battles to determine whether carnival games constitute illegal gambling. For example, in the summer of 1972, the Iowa Attorney General concluded nine of the carnival games played on the midway of the Iowa State Fair had to be shut down because they constituted illegal gambling under the state's anti-gambling law. 3 The attorney general was roundly criticized for this decision, 4 but attempts to block his actions through declaratory judgment failed. 5 Ultimately, his decision to shut down the games prompted a major legislative overhaul of the state's gambling laws, with specific exemptions for carnival games. 6 Other states followed suit, and today there is an uneven patchwork of state laws, regulations, and local ordinances exempting certain types of carnival games in certain locations under certain conditions. 7
Part II of this Article is a brief overview of the business aspects of carnival games. Part III of this Article examines the common law definition of gambling and the skill-based exception that draws the line between illegal gambling and legal games of amusement. Part IV analyzes whether several popular carnival games qualify for the skill-based exception to gambling. Part V highlights some of the common statutes and regulations exempting carnival games from gambling prohibition. Finally, the Article concludes in Part V with a discussion addressing why so ...
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