Last week, a New York judge ruled that online poker is a game of skill and not one of luck. Those of you out there that play poker regularly are probably going “duh” right about now, but for the rest of you that don’t play, this ruling is actually a pretty big deal.
Let me give a little bit of backstory here. Last year, Lawrence Discritina and 13 other people were arrested in New York for running an underground card room. They were later charged and convicted for violations of the federal Illegal Gambling Business Act.
Dicristina contended that poker is not like other casino games and is instead a game of skill and filed an appeal of the conviction. Many believed that this case had little chance of getting overturned, but after a couple of expert witnesses, federal judge Jack B Weinstein ruled that poker was a game of skill and not subject to the IGBA.
Does that mean that underground card rooms are now legal? Unfortunately no, it does not. The judge did rule that the underground room did still violate New York state law, as antiquated as it is, and the group could have been tried under those laws.
So why the big deal you ask? Well, first and foremost it finally answers a significant question regarding the game of poker that has been debated ever since online poker was made illegal in the United States.
Poker players and lobbyist for the game have argued that the game is one of skill, but they had no legal standing to back this up. This decision is a huge first step for poker players across the country looking to have the game legitimized.
Next, it does help set some type of legal precedent for states to review their antiquated laws. Perhaps with this recent decision by the judge, other states will review the issue and determine as the judge did that poker is indeed a skill game enjoyed by many people.
While poker is not a back room game like it was in the old west and much of this century, many states still treat it on the same level as blackjack, craps, and other casinos games. It has seen poker players and celebrities banned by hotels and other establishments and seen many otherwise law abiding citizens arrested and convicted of gambling related crimes.
This recent decision could be one to begin the winds of change in regards to changing laws to allow Americans to play the game they love. Of course, as with any other chance, the process will be somewhat slow and as such, don’t expect immediate change. However, in a few years we could all possibly look back at this decision as when the legalization of poker nationwide really began.