According to the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, the fact that poker is a skill-based game will not protect a man who organized Texas Hold’em games from prosecution. This ruling reverses a ruling of last year, according to which Lawrence DiCristina was protected from prosecution by the fact that Texas Hold’em is a skill-based game.
The above-mentioned case revolves around a piece of legislation called the Illegal Gambling Business Act, which was passed into law by the US federal government in 1970 to curb organized criminal activities. According to this law, running gambling businesses that violate state laws is a crime, especially when these illegal gambling businesses either make profits of over $2k per day for the owner or stay in operation for over 30 days.
The Illegal Gambling Business Act was used to convict DiCristina for organizing Texas Hold’em games in a warehouse located at Staten Island in New York. DiCristina used to promote his business orally as well as by sending text messages till the feds cracked down on him.
In Aug 2012, US District Judge Jack Weinstein stated that a verdict cannot be given as the law was too ambiguous and did not specify the exact forms of gambling it covers. Besides, the law does not cover Texas Hold’em as a skill-based game, he noted.
But the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals discarded Weinstein’s ruling and refused to find any ambiguity in the law. Writing on behalf of a panel of three judges, US Circuit Judge Chester Straub said: “Because we find no such ambiguity, we decline to limit the statute’s reach beyond its plain terms.” The court has re-directed the case to Judge Jack Weinstein for sentencing, as a result of which DiCristina could get a prison term of as long as 10 years.
The ruling has disappointed advocates of US online poker legalization. The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), a group dedicated to urging federal lawmakers to legalize US online poker, called the ruling “unfortunate” while taking note of the fact that the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals has refrained from disputing that poker is a skill-based game, but has supported the federal definition of the term “gambling.”
Meanwhile, DiCristina’s legal representative, Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells, a law firm, has refused to make any public comments regarding the case. The office of the Brooklyn US Attorney has also refused issue any public statement.