Todd Erks, owner of Todd's Place in Lincoln Country, South Dakota, is petitioning his home state to legalize poker, it was recently revealed. Erks has mailed petitions to bar owners across South Dakota in an effort to collect the minimum 17,000 signatures required to get the issue on the ballot in the November 2006 elections. At that point, South Dakota's voters will have the power to redefine the legal boundaries of poker in their state. He has until early May to submit the petitions.
Erks has been holding $25 and $50 Texas Hold'em tournaments at his bar 3-4 days a week since early 2005, despite its illegal status. He claims between 20 and 60 players anted up at each tournament, with the house taking a $5 cut from each buy-in. Although he never ran into any problems with lawmaking officials in his county, he knew something was amiss when it took three months to renew his liquor license this past June.
After promising to remove all decks of cards from his establishment, the authorities renewed his license and Erks decided to play it safe by launching a campaign to settle the issue once and for all. His petition aims to redefine what constitutes a game of chance as opposed to one of luck by asking voters to legalize games where the competitor's skill is equal to or greater than the role of chance in determining the final outcome of the match. Erks believes there is a 50% chance the issue will be passed if it makes it to a referendum in November.