Wednesday August 22,2012 : US FEDERAL JUDGE SAYS POKER IS A GAME OF SKILL
Dicristina acquittal establishes a powerful legal precedent
Poker advocates received a powerful boost for their legal argument that poker is a game predominantly of skill rather than chance Tuesday when a federal judge in New York handed down a decision supporting their contention.
The difference between skill and chance is significant and has been debated in courts around the world because it takes poker out of most legal definitions of what constitutes gambling.
Judge Jack Weinstein's finding was handed down after considering evidence at a hearing following a case in which Lawrence Cristina was convicted of operating an illegal gaming business in terms of the Illegal Gambling Business Act.
The judge's conclusion that the game of poker is “predominated by skill” immediately received widespread mainstream media coverage across the United States.
The judge considered expert evidence and argument from both defence and prosecution in the original case before setting aside the guilty verdict against Di Cristina.
His finding follows the draft publication by academics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Holland this week of an extensively researched and analysed paper supporting the proposition that poker is a game significantly influenced by skill.
The poker advocacy body Poker Players Alliance immediately applauded the decision, with its litigation spokesman, Patrick Fleming, commenting that the skill vs. chance argument was one supported by the PPA in its on-going quest to decriminalise poker.
Executive director John Pappas claimed the decision was a major victory for poker.
"This case is not only a victory for poker advocates but also for the PPA, which helped orchestrate the defense of both Dicristina and the game of poker," he said. "In addition to presenting the oral arguments in the case, PPA attorneys provided the arguments and briefs and extensive expert testimony.”
The PPA statement also observed:
“As we worked for years defending players against vague gambling laws, we have patiently waited for the right opportunity to raise the issue in federal court.
"Judge Weinstein’s thoughtful decision recognizes what we have consistently argued for years: poker is not a crime, it is a game of skill. As the judge’s opinion aptly notes, poker is an American pastime that is deeply embedded in the history and fabric of our nation and his decision sets aside the notion that the vague laws render the game criminal.”
Adding a sober note to the celebratory reactions, Fleming noted that the government would likely appeal the issue, given the emphasis enforcement agencies had placed on prosecuting poker organisers using the IGBA. He also pointed out that whilst Judge Weinstein's decision created a valuable legal precedent, it was only binding in the eastern district of New York.