Florida's gambling laws generally apply to games of chance and not to contests of skill. For example, s. 849.09, F.., prohibits lotteries, other than those operated by the state. While the term is not defined, it has generally been held by the courts to include three elements: 1) a prize, 2) awarded by chance, 3) for consideration.
While the elements of a prize and consideration are present in a contest of skill in which the contestants pay an entry fee for the opportunity to win, it is the skill of the contestant, rather than chance, that is the predominant element in the selection of the winner. The Florida Attorney General has stated that contests in which the skill of the contestant predominates over the element of chance do not constitute lotteries.
Section 849.14, F.S., however, makes it unlawful to "stake, bet or wager" money or other thing of value on the result of any trial or contest of skill. In an early decision considering the state's gambling statutes, The Supreme Court of Florida found a violation of law in both games of chance and contests of skill where wages, bets or money were at stake, regardless of "whether the parties betting be the actors in the event upon which their wager is laid or not . . . ."
Subsequently, the Court in Pompano Horse Club v. State, discussed the difference between a "purse, prize or premium" and a "stake, bet or wager," stating that in the former, the person offering the prize or purse "has no chance of gaining back the thing offered but, if he abides by his offer, he must lose it, whereas in the latter each party interested therein has a chance of gain and suffers a risk of loss."
In Creash v. State, the Court again considered the terms "stake, bet or wager," for purposes of the state's gambling laws, stating:
"In gamblers' lingo, 'take, bet or wager' are synonymous and refer to the money or other thing of value put up by the parties thereto with the understanding that one or the other gets the whole for nothing but on the turn of a card, the result of a race, or some trick of magic. A 'purse, prize, or premium' has a broader significance. If offered by one (who in no way competes for it) to the successful contestant in a fete of mental or physical skill, it is not generally condemned as gambling, while if contested for in a game of cards or other game of chance, it is so considered. . . . It is also banned as gambling if created . . . by paying admissions to the game . . . or otherwise contributing to a fund from which the 'purse, prize, or premium' contested for is paid, and wherein the winner gains, and the other contestants lose all." (e.s.)
The payment of an entry fee to participate in the contest of skill when the sponsor of the contest does not participate and where the prize money does not consist of entry fees would not appear to be a "stake, bet or wager."
In Faircloth v. Central Florida Fair, Inc., the court considered the application of s. 849.14, F.S., to the players of games of skill for prizes:
"We turn next to F.S.A. s. 849.14 which prohibits betting on the result of a trial or contest of skill. It is the [Attorney General's] contention that the playing of [games of skill] falls unquestionably within the bounds of this provision. Defendant's position is arguable. But the more logical interpretation is that the legislature intended by enacting F.S.A. s. 849.14 to proscribe 'wagering' on the results of ball games, races, prize fights and the like as opposed to 'playing' games of skill for prizes. . . . To adopt defendant's construction we would have to find all contests of skill or ability in which there is an entry fee and prizes to be gambling. The list could be endless: golf tournaments, dog shows, beauty contests . . . to name a few. No one seriously considers such activities to be gambling. . . ."
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