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In this answer Dale said that questions about "rules of sport or games" are on-topic as a form of "private law" like contracts. I am not so sure.

Contracts get their force from actual laws which make them binding, and indeed enforceable by courts in many cases. That makes them pretty clearly a matter of law, in my view.

But the connection between law and the "rules of sport or games" is IMO not quite so clear and direct. Also, it can be a specialized field of its own. It might be better handled elsewhere. For example, the Board and Card Games stack (BCG.SE) gets a lot of questions about the rules of the game "Magic: The Gathering" (MTG). These are apparently quite specific and detailed, and rather legalistic. They also involve technical terms specific to the game. From time to time, although less often, BCG gets questions about the rule of such games as Bridge, Scrabble, or Monopoly. I have answered several such question there.

Do we really want such questions here on Law.SE? are they likely to get good answers here?

Related: Are rules of an organization on-topic?

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  • FWIW, we also have a sister site Sports.
    – Andrew T.
    Oct 10, 2022 at 4:02
  • Our site on role-playing games also gets a lot of questions on games such as Dungeons & Dragons that have highly intricate rulesets. Some answers even reference legal principles of statutory construction to interpret potentially ambiguous or contadictory rules! Oct 10, 2022 at 15:54
  • @RobertColumbia "Some answers even reference legal principles of statutory construction". Interesting, in part because it refutes the OP's proposed requirement that an actual legal issue be mentioned. Your remark reinforces the point that those would be on topic here on LawSE, a site which on the upper right corner of every post purports to be "for educational purposes". Oct 10, 2022 at 20:04
  • @Iñaki Viggers I do not find that argument at all persuasive. Yes, the site id for education, but for education about law and legal matter, not for eules that are somewhat law-like. Principles of construction and interpretation are used in several fields. Using them does not make an are on-topic here, in my view. Oct 10, 2022 at 20:43
  • @DavidSiegel "Principles of construction and interpretation are used in several fields. Using them does not make an are on-topic here". No need to stretch to "several fields". RobertColumbia's point is specific to "legal principles of statutory construction". Oct 10, 2022 at 21:00

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It seems to me that questions where actual legal rights depend on whether or not some action was within the rules of a sport or game or not should be on topic because of the actual legal issue. If there is a suit (actual or hypothetical) for an injury where the rules of football or boxing are relevant, that can be in-topic because of the suit. Similar if thre is a defamation case over an accusation of cheating, the ruled of the game involved will be relevant, and a question about them in that context will be on-topic.

But questions such as:

  • What is the penalty for an insufficient bid in Bridge?
  • If a player puts down two words that cross at a triple word square in scrabble, is the score for both words tripled?
  • In Magic the Gathering (MTG), if I play card A while another player has card B exposed, do all the effects of A apply?
  • In Fizbin, what exactly is a sckronk, and can it apply if I hold two aces?
  • In Monopoly, if the is a shortage of houses, can I sell houses from one property to build a hotel on another, then buy the houses back, all in one turn?

I further call attention to the quite typical questions from CBG.SE in my comments, which I repeat here in cse comments are moved to chat or delet4ed. I urge users to actually follow these links if they have not previously done so and consider if these questions would seem on-topic on Law.SE.

I disagree with the statement in the comment by IƱaki Viggers that:

... questions that involve locating or interpreting man-made rules --let alone ones agreed upon-- are hardly off-topic here

Not all rules are laws, and rules questions that do not involve an associated legal issue, actual, potential, or hypothetical, I would incline to close as off-topic.

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  • In trying to draw a distinction from what I posted, you are taking out of context the remark you quote from my comment. The remark was made in the context of an answer where one main point is: In fact, courts ponder the rules of a game for determining whether legal liability arises from the conduct at issue. That obviates much of the substance of your answer. The paragraph that ends with "rather than tenets of legal construction & rationale." implies my agreement that not all rules involve a legal issue, and hence that such questions would be off-topic. Oct 1, 2022 at 20:33
  • @Iñaki Viggers I did not mesn to take your statement out of context. I did not read the comment as primarily in the context of the Al-Jahm case, that was only mentioned in a subsequent sentence. I took it as saying that all such matters at least might be in topic here. But I did link to your comment so any reader can see your context. To be clear, if a question is about "agreed-upon man-made rules" that are not laws, with no stated link to any legal case or legal rights, would you think such a question likely to be on-topic? Oct 1, 2022 at 21:58
  • "the Al-Jahm case, that was only mentioned in a subsequent sentence." That subsequent sentence addressed your inaccurate comment that the doctrine of assumption of risk applies "only" to physical sports. "I did link to your comment so any reader can see your context." Yes, but the subtlety is likely to go unnoticed to the audience unless the author of the decontextualized remark brings to their attention that subtlety. "would you think such a question likely to be on-topic?" Having posted an answer that addresses that question in detail, it is pointless to try cramming it in a comment. Oct 2, 2022 at 11:32
  • You wrote "*your inaccurate comment that the doctrine of assumption of risk applies "only" to physical sports. *" How is this inaccurate? What risk is there to be assumed in playing a board game, card game, video game, or other game that is not a physical sport? Oct 2, 2022 at 15:12
  • In tournaments and ranking systems, the player's income or reputation can be affected by others' conduct and decisions. The rules of the game might allow or prohibit that conduct, or limit the extent of permissible discretion. The doctrine of assumption of risk would bar a player's claim if he knew or should have known that the harmful conduct (likely to happen) is compliant with the rules of the game. Oct 2, 2022 at 22:51
  • @Iñaki Viggers Yes that is true. That does not seem to me to be the same kind of risk that physical sports, particularly contact sports involve, nor to present the same sorts of legal issues. It might involve a defamation claim, which I think I mentioned earlier in this thread. In any case I don't think that possibility makes a rules question on-topic unless the actual legal issue is mentioned. Oct 2, 2022 at 23:14
  • "It might involve a defamation claim". Not just defamation, but also any controversy where the absence or defect of due process leads to deprivation of a cognizable interest. If any such interest is at stake, contract and/or tortious interference theories are implied regardless of whether an OP mentions an actual legal issue. Oct 2, 2022 at 23:30
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I agree with David Siegel's answer. I only provide an additional answer to try to express what I think is the essence. I'll delete if it seems this only adds confusion.

The question must ultimately be about law (in a broad sense: common law, statutory, constitutional, administrative, Indigenous, customary, international, Parliamentary procedure, learning about law, etc.).

A question about law does not become off-topic merely because the rules of a sport/game are part of the background or factual context that is necessary to understand the legal question.

Likewise, a question does not become on-topic simply by being about the rules of a sport/game.

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Are questions about "rules of sport or games" on-topic here

It depends on the type of question.

Questions that reduce to "how to play?", "what is the best strategy/move in this situation?", "why is this move/player granted n points?", and so forth, certainly would be off-topic even if an OP prefixes them with "According to the rules of the game, [...]". That is because they mostly involve game expertise rather than tenets of legal construction & rationale.

By contrast, other types of questions are within scope of LawSE. Rules of a game can be relevant to assessing whether a claim sounds in violation of due process and/or whether doctrines of consent or of assumption of risk precludes that claim. For instance, Avila v. Citrus Comm. College Dist, 41 Cal.Rptr.3d 299, 312 (2006) ponders whether legal liability arises from "conduct that violates the rules of the game". There, the Concurring & Dissenting opinion even resorts to common practice as well as official commentary to the rules of the game to support a number of arguments, Id. at 316, 318.

Similarly, Thompson v. McNeill, 53 Ohio St.3d 102, 105 (1990) states:

If the rules of a sport allow conduct intended to harm another player, as they do in boxing or football, for example, it follows that those same rules also allow behavior that would otherwise give rise to liability for recklessness. But any conduct which is characterized by the strong probability of harm that recklessness entails, and which occurs outside the normal conduct and customs of the sport, may give rise to liability.

This implies a scrutiny of the rules of a sport or game can be crucial for determining whether the conduct at issue is actionable or protected by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk, which Al-Jahmi v. Ohio Athletic Comm. 2022-Ohio-2296 (June 30, 2022), describes as follows:

[A] plaintiff who voluntarily engages in a recreational activity or sporting event assumes the inherent risks of that activity and cannot recover for injuries sustained in engaging in the activity unless the defendant acted recklessly or intentionally in causing the injuries.

Lastly, the involvement of specific terminology or knowledge tends to constrain who is capable of answering a question, but an increase of requisite specialization does not in and of itself render that question off-topic.

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