Sunday October 25,2015 : DEPORTATION ORDER ON FORMER ONLINE POKER OPERATOR DEFEATED
Federal Court Judge uses well-known poker song to make his point.
A Canadian federal judge has overturned an Immigration & Refugee Board deportation order on an Israeli citizen, using the words of a popular poker song to advice officials that they should have "folded their cards and walked away from the case."
Israeli Ofer Cohen arrived in Canada in 2013 to visit a friend but was investigated after an Immigration & Refugee Board (IRB) adjudicator deemed him inadmissible because he had allegedly engaged in serious criminality in Israel in 2009.
Back then he was part of a partnership that developed an Israel-facing online poker platform which was shuttered on illegal gambling grounds by Israeli enforcement agencies.
The Israeli authorities issued a warrant for the arrest of Cohen, but he had already left the country; however the warrant surfaced four years later when he entered Canada. He was allowed to remain in the country, pending the outcome of an IRB admissibility hearing.
When the IRB subsequently issued a deportation order, Cohen had to leave Canada, but hired lawyers to contest the issue in the federal court of Judge Sean Harrington. As the hearing developed, an argument ensued over whether Cohen's Israeli venture had been illegal, turning on whether poker was a game predominantly of chance or skill to determine its legality.
Having studied the relevant Israeli laws and expert opinions on the skill vs. chance argument, Judge Harrington was not convinced the Texas hold ’em website Cohen had created was illegal in Israel.
The judge additionally opined that the IRB adjudicator had invested too much credibility on an article written by Israeli lawyers that claimed Israeli courts have held that “certain forms of poker constitute a ‘prohibited game.’” Nowhere in the article, Judge Harrington pointed out, did it specify that Texas hold ’em is a prohibited game.
In overturning the IRB decision, the judge paraphrased the lyrics of the Kenny Rogers song ‘The Gambler', saying:
“Immigration authorities overreached here. The evidence was that Texas hold ‘em poker is a game of skill, and games of skill are not illegal in Israel; therefore, they should have ‘folded their cards and walked away’ from the case.”