Two influential political committees devoted to electing Republican state representatives are divided on what to do with political donations from an organization associated with manufacturers of “skill games.” In the view of the committee chairs, the games are offensive to some voters in the Republican primary in Kansas. These games include word games such as “Guess the Weight,” “jewelry master” and “umbrella Race,” and timed events such as rabbit races, bicycle races and fruit juice expeditions. The chairmen of both committees are certain these games constitute an acceptable use of donations by the national organization associated with these games.
The National Republican Committee and the committee of Kansas, which are controlling the redistricting process, agree that political fundraising and spending should remain within permissible limits. However, they differ on whether the games developed by Jigoshop, Inc., a company that produces, publishes and markets computerized skill games, should be included among the political contributions. According to National Republican Committee Chairman Karl Rove, the games in question are “not age appropriate” for election campaigns.
While skill gaming is primarily a pleasure pursuit, it is also a skill in the way it increases the chance of success in winning. If a person is skilled at “guessing” an outcome, he or she has a greater chance of hitting the bull’s eye than someone who doesn’t possess this knowledge. Although the odds may be against the gambler, the odds of success may be in favor of the player who has mastered the skill of guessing and “spicing up” the chance of the outcome. Gambling is defined as “playing a risk against a known chance” and, as such, is a form of gambling.
The political organizations supporting the use of skill games in fundraising believe that their use does not violate the First Amendment rights of those exercising their right to free speech. The framers of the Constitution did not want government regulation of political debate or speech. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right of political speech in elections. In a series of decisions involving several disputed cases involving candidate election fundraising, the Supreme Court has held that it is not the role of the government to limit political speech.
Gambling, like skill games, is not illegal per se. However, the potential for abuse and manipulation is great. The recent scandal in Las Vegas involving a high profile “poker bonus” and its associated political donations raises serious questions about the integrity of political fundraising in the U.S. and around the world. In light of this issue, the IRS is currently examining the use of software used by some fundraising groups to manipulate online gaming sites and their customers in order to affect the outcome of U.S. elections.
One would have to ask why anyone would want to manipulate the outcome of a popular skill game in such a way. Perhaps it is because they feel there is a law against people manipulating the outcome of popular games and they feel that gaming sites should be free to try to achieve the desired outcome with any number of different tactics before the option to purchase a ticket is offered. I suppose that if one were in Vegas they could try their luck at the blackjack table and be quite happy in the end. Of course, if everyone just took a chance they would soon lose all their money playing skill games instead of playing real casino’s and real money.