1. Definition and Elements of the Crime
Although gambling has become more widespread in recent years, especially with the expansion of casinos and the rise of online betting, certain betting activity is still considered illegal and can trigger serious penalties for those convicted. Under California Penal Code Section 337a PC, pool selling, bookmaking and wagering are unlawful activities that can result in a felony conviction.
In order to prove that a defendant is guilty under California Penal Code Section 337a PC, the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant engaged in pool selling or bookmaking.
- The defendant kept or occupied a building or vessel or place of any kind for the purpose of recording or registering any bets or wagers.
- And the defendant received, held or forwarded money or anything of valuable consideration to be staked, pledged or wagered upon the result or purported result of any trial, contest, lot, chance, casualty, unknown or contingent event whatsoever.
2. Related Offenses
Other similar or related offenses include:
- Gaming – California Penal Code Section 330 PC
- Obtaining Money by Fraud through Gaming – California Penal Code Section 332 PC
A man falls into deep debt with a bookie after losing large sums of money betting on sports. The bookie allows the man to work off his debts by gathering money and bringing in new clients. The man goes to work for the bookie and takes and places bets on sporting events from various different clients. The man collects money from individuals and pays out on winning tickets. This man could be charged with bookmaking in violation of California Penal Code Section 337a PC.
In another example, every March an office runs a college basketball pool for the NCAA Tournament. Everyone in the office contributes to the pool and must buy in to participate. The person who selects the most winners throughout the tournament is awarded the entire pool. Even though this activity may seem harmless, it is considered pool selling and is considered to be a violation of California Penal Code Section 337a PC. Both the people operating the pool and those participating could be charged with a criminal offense.
4. Defenses to Pool Selling / Bookmaking / Wagering
There may be circumstances in which a person is forced to assist a bookmaker, usually due to their own substantial gambling debts and also as the result of a credible threat of violence. In these situations, a defendant may be able to raise a legitimate duress defense if charged criminally under California Penal Code Section 337a PC.
If the amount of the pool, bet or wager was $2,500 or less, this offense is an infraction that is punishable by a $250 fine. If the amount of pool or wager is above $2,500 a first time violation of this offense is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year in jail.
If the defendant has a prior conviction for pool selling, bookmaking or wagering, this offense is a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. If charged as a felony, the maximum penalty is three years in prison. If charged as a misdemeanor, a judge must impose up to a year in jail or a fine between $1,000 and $10,000. If the defendant has two or more prior convictions for this offense, this offense is again a wobbler. If charged as a misdemeanor in this case, the maximum fine amount would be $15,000.
6. Criminal Defense for Pool Selling / Bookmaking / Wagering Cases
While many people may not think twice about operating office pools or placing bets with bookies on sporting events, pool selling, bookmaking and wagering is a serious criminal offense that can lead to lengthy prison sentences for those convicted. As a result, it is very important that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer if you have been charged with this offense. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who is highly respected throughout the court system as a top-notch litigator who knows how to effectively fight cases of this nature.
For more information about pool selling/bookmaking/wagering offenses, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.