Federal Judge Rules Poker is a Skill Game: Context and Analysis
Posted On June 30, 2018
Federal Judge Rules Poker is a Skill Game
On Tuesday August 21st, 2012, Judge Jack Weinstein’s ruled that poker predominately game of skill and not one of chance.
What does the ruling mean? What is the likely impact of the ruling for poker in general and online poker specifically? Let’s walk through the background of the case and then survey early opinions on the decision to see what conclusions can be drawn from Weinstein’s ruling.Background of the Case (US vs DiChristina). In June of 2011, federal authorities arrested 15 people allegedly connected to a New York gambling ring. Among the defendants charged with running illegal poker games: Lawrence DiChristina.You can review the charges here, but the basics are: DiChristina was accused of violating the Illegal Gambling Business Act (read the text of the law here and a synopsis of the IGBA here).
He was convicted in July
but DiChristina opted to appeal on grounds that poker isn’t gambling, and ergo running poker game cannot be gambling business . That decision set stage for today’s decision Judge Weinstein, who agreed with Christina and ruled IGBA doesn’t apply to poker. What Does the Decision Mean / Not Mean?Well, in immediate terms,means that DiChristina is off hook for federal charges (although state charges may still be forthcoming). As for the broader implications for poker players, theres less here than you might expect, at least in the short term. Why?Matt Levine over at Dealbreaker sums it up pretty well:Ok, but
why? Because the IGBA and New York state law employ two different tests to determine whether a game is one of skill or one of chance.
In a nutshell, the IGBA relies on the Dominant Factor test (which dominates the game, skill or chance?) while New York law relies on the Material Degree test (does chance play a substantial, even if non-dominant, role?).
The Poker Player’s Alliance,
who filed an amicus brief and provided expert testimony during the trial, released a statement applauding Judge Weinstein’s decision.
but even they couldn’t really draw a straight line from the decision to regulated online poker in the US:PPA rep Rich Muny was a little more direct on Twitter: and Karak posting his analysis of the decision over at 2p2 drives home a similar set of points:That’s Not to Say The Decision Isn’t Important It’s quite important, and not just because it is obviously far more attractive than the alternative.
Judge Weinsteins decision could, for example, provide valuable ammunition to someone mounting a challenge to state gambling laws a point made via Newsday: While New York state law may rely on the Material Degree test to define an activity as one of chance or skill, the Dominant Factor test is far more prevalent in state gambling law as a whole making Weinstein’s decision relevant (although not controlling) in more states than not.
crucial question, is who will bring such challenges to state law and how long those challenges will take to resolve; by time successful challenge is complete, may be moot if online poker is already been regulate state or federal action.
Link to the full text of Weinsteins opinion.
Highlights of the decision from Rich Muny
Poker Players Alliance
Follow on Twitter for analysis: @CasinoCityVin, @RichMuny, @Karak2p2, @ppapoker.
Infographic: Why Poker is a Game of Skill