Poker’s Legal Status Still Under Scrutiny
The argument as to whether poker is a game of skill or luck is hardly a new one, but it’s one that’s seeing a lot of attention these days. Earlier this week, Federal Judge Jack Weinstein made an interesting ruling in the case of Lawrence DiCristiana, who was indicted last year for running a poker club in the back room of a warehouse which he used for a legitimate bike business. DiCristiana had been running Texas Hold’em games, and taking a 5% rake from each pot.
According to the authorities, he was not laundering money, acting as a loan shark, or otherwise doing anything illegal – the case came down to whether or not he was running a skill games business, or a gambling businses. According to Judge Weinstein, poker is a game of skill. Judge Weinstein is the first federal judge to rule on the issue, and his ruling is a long, thorough one with many citations. The judge found the arguments of one key witness, economic analyst and poker player Randal Heeb, to be incredibly persuasive. Heeb said “The amount I choose to bet is carefully, strategically chosen in order to influence your behaviour”.
In his ruling, Weinstein said that “Across a series of games, in numbers that would be expected to be played in a local poker tournament, the influence of skill becomes obvious and overwhelming”
DiCristiana still faces prosecution under New York State Law, because New York has a stricter definition of gambling than the federal law lays out, however this federal ruling is still a victory for poker players in the USA.