Criminal Justice

Federal Judge Finds Poker Is More a Game of Skill and Tosses Prosecution

A federal judge in New York has reversed a federal conviction against a man accused of running an illegal underground poker club in a ruling declaring that poker is more a game of skill than chance.

U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein ruled Congress did not intend to make poker a criminal offense when it passed the Illegal Gambling Business Act, the New York Law Journal reports. Part of his ruling was based on the assessment that poker is not purely a game of chance, and can’t be prosecuted under the law that bans the operation of an illegal gambling business. The New York Times and the Associated Press also have stories.

Even though New York courts have held poker can be considered gambling, it’s unclear whether every state offense constitutes a crime under the federal law, Weinstein said in his decision (PDF). The ambiguity should be resolved in favor of the defendant, Lawrence Dicristina, he said. Dicristina was accused of running poker games out of a New York warehouse two days a week.

SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein, who has played in the World Series of Poker, represented the Poker Players Alliance as amicus counsel. He told AP the decision is a validation for poker players who believe they are exercising their skills in the game.

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