Gambling Feud Ends in Gunfire in Memphis

A feud over a game of dice where bets were place led to gunfire in Memphis earlier this month. Six people were shot and two of them died. All six of the people shot were under the age of 21, and one of the victims of the shooting was 13 years old. The suspect in the shooting is 18 years old. The shootings and arrest opened up the window into gambling in the African-American community, as well as the numbers of young African-American boys and girls who gamble in this popular (and illegal) game.

Gambling In Tennessee

While nearly all of the surrounding states have horse racing and casinos, Tennessee has neither. It is one of the most restrictive states in the nation with regard to gambling. Tennessee is one of the 11 states in the United States without a casino. There are casinos close by, either in Missouri, Mississippi, or North Carolina. Tennessee does have a lottery, but other forms of gambling are illegal.


dice gameDice games have existed in the African-American community for centuries. Dice games are a form of traditional craps games played in the casinos. Usually, the shooter rolls two dice—which are usually inspected by the players ahead of time. The players can bet before the dice are rolled, or they can opt to pass on the particular round. If the shooter (who also has to place a bet) rolls a 7 or an 11, all bets are matched, and it is called a pass. If the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12, the don’t pass bets get paid. If the shooter rolls a 4, 5, 6, 8, or 10, he wins and the other players lose. While these odds and rules are not exactly the same as traditional craps, the two-game are related. Usually, dice games are limited to four or six players, but there are plenty of observers just watching. There are also many people waiting to take their turn.

The Incident

The dice game was taking place at a home in a northern Memphis suburb. Police responded to the home after a call that said they heard gunshots. When police arrived at the home, they found one man dead in the home, and a second person died at the hospital. Boys and girls were among the injured. The youngest victim was 13, and the injured victims were found in either serious or critical condition.

Witnesses told police that the suspect was not the person shooting the dice, but was one of the players. The other people that were wounded were either players or they were observing. The 18-year-old suspect got into an argument with the person shooting the dice over what he thought was a bad roll, which cost him money. The argument turned physical, and the suspect pulled out a gun and started shooting. Witnesses say there was a large sum of money involved in the game, but did not say how large the pot was at the time of the shooting.

This isn’t the first time a dice game has gone bad. In San Bernardino, eight people were shot in September over a dice game gone bad at an apartment complex. Much as the incident in Tennessee, the argument was over a bet placed on the dice game and a bad roll by the dice shooter. As with the Tennessee shooting, nearly all of the people who were watching or participating in the dice game were very young—under the age of 21. Police have said in the past that because dice games are illegal, and a lot of money changes hands, emotions get involved and people get hurt.

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Richard Holmes was born in Tampa, Florida and studied computer science at Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola Florida. A devout Baptist, volunteer Sunday School teacher and online gaming fan, Richard works as a part-time systems administrator at Baptist Hospital and part-time professional blogger specializing in statistics, probability and computer science issues. He is an ardent believer in the future of artificial intelligence as a tool for transforming human society for the better, particularly in the area of health care and modern medicine. A chess player, and competitive online gamer Richard actively participates on online gaming tournaments in his free time.