On appeal from the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and Superior Court, Law Division, Atlantic County.
Matthews, Pressler and Petrella. The opinion of the court was delivered by Matthews, P.J.A.D.
[182 NJSuper Page 564] On July 24, 1981 IGP-East, Inc. filed a petition (supplemented on September 8, 1981) with the Casino Control Commission seeking approval to organize and promote a casino craps tournament pursuant to the Commission's authority under N.J.S.A. 5:12-5. As described in its petitions, the tournament, to be held at Resorts International Hotel Casino in March, would consist of a series of elimination rounds in the casino game of craps. The top six winners would receive cash prizes amounting to a total
of $250,000. To participate, each contestant must purchase $750 worth of tournament gaming chips to be used in making bets and would pay a $250 entry fee.
On October 30, 1981 the Division of Gaming Enforcement filed with the Commission a position paper relating to casino tournament games. The Division's position was that though the Commission had the authority under § 5 of the Casino Control Act to approve casino gaming tournaments as a permissible form of casino gaming, the charging of an entry fee turned the otherwise acceptable tournament into a lottery proscribed by N.J.S.A. 2C:37-1 et seq. Notwithstanding the Division's views, on November 4, 1981 the Commission granted IGP's petition.
Subsequently, IGP began to promote the tournament. The Division, however, persisted in the position that such a tournament was an illegal lottery and consequently threatened both IGP and Resorts with criminal prosecution if the tournament were held.
As a result of these threats, on December 21, 1981 IGP sought declaratory and injunctive relief against the Attorney General and the Division in the Law Division. Specifically, IGP requested an order affirming the legality of its tournament and restraining defendants from instituting criminal charges. This relief was granted by Judge Gruccio on December 28, 1981.
We conclude that a tournament involving an authorized casino game by the Casino Control Commission, even if it takes on some indicia of a lottery, is not proscribed by the Code of Criminal Justice.
We read the "Gambling Offenses" chapter of the Criminal Code not to prohibit every gambling scheme which falls within the definition of a lottery. Only those gambling schemes which are "unlawful" are proscribed. The pertinent sections read:
h. "Lottery" means an unlawful gambling scheme in which (a) the players pay or agree to pay something of value for chances, represented and differentiated by numbers or by combinations of numbers or by some other media, one or more of which chances are to be designated the winning ones; and (b) the winning chances are to be determined by a drawing or by some other method
based upon the element of chance; and (c) the holders of the winning chances are to ...