3.29.10 – A Pennsylvania couple who hosted poker games in a garage and were charged but acquitted by a local court are back at square one this week after an appeal by the authorities to the state court of appeals was successful.
The decision by President Judge Kate Ford Elliott and Senior Judge Robert Freedberg ( Senior Judge Robert Colville dissented) is a blow to the argument that Texas Hold ‘Em is a game of skill rather than chance and is therefore exempt from anti-gambling laws.
In September 2008 Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania residents Diane Dent and Walter Watkins were taken to court on illegal gambling-related charges by local authorities. It was the first time that the luck vs. skill argument had been used in the state, and the defendants, who were supported by the Poker Players Alliance and the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys were successful.
However, the state took the case on appeal, where President Judge Kate Ford Elliott and Senior Judge Robert Freedberg cited the opinions of other courts in ruling that some skill is involved in poker but it is nevertheless a predominantly game of chance. Senior Judge Robert Colville dissented, saying prosecutors had failed to present sufficient evidence to prove their contention that poker is a game of chance.
Defense attorney Howard Bashman said he did not know whether his clients will appeal to the state Supreme Court, but he believes their case is a strong one.