Whether or not poker is a game of skill under the IGBA is deemed irrelevant.
On Wednesday, the U.S Second Circuit Court of Appeals out of New York ruled to overturn the landmark acquittal of Lawrence DiCristina, stating that DiCristina’s gambling activity violated state law. Judge Jack Weinstein’s ruling that poker is a game of skill and therefore not illegal under the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA) was rendered largely irrelevant to the case.
The ruling was issued by judges Denny Chin, Peter W. Hall and Chester J. Straub. They concluded that DiCristina violated all three conditions of the IGBA, citing that the act does not outline a definition of gambling, but rather criteria for an illegal gambling business.
DiCristina was originally convicted in 2011 for running a no-limit hold’em game in New York. The Brooklyn native and his cohorts were profiting over $2,000 per day, a clear violation of the IGBA. After being found guilty, a post-trial was conducted to determine if poker is a form of gambling. Judge Weinstein concluded that it was not.
However, the Circuit stated that Judge Weinsein’s ruling was largely irrelevant to the case. In lieu of this, the three-judge panel decided to reinstate the guilty verdict and proceed with sentencing under federal guidelines. Future appeals would have to be conducted before the U.S Supreme Court.
DiCristina is left with several options, none of them very promising. Besides appealing directly to the Supreme Court, he could ask that his case be reheard in front of a larger panel of judges. But if history is any indicator, it’s unlikely that his case will be entertained.
Given that the original acquittal of DiCristina was deemed a huge victory for poker, is the reversal a huge blow? Yes and no. Unfortunately, the ruling means that the Department of Justice can continue to convict operations that violate the terms of the IGBA. However, due to the language of the Act, operations can only be found guilty if they had broken state law.
However, just because Judge Weinstein’s argument was rendered inconsequential in regards to Lawrence DiCristina, does not mean that it fell on deaf ears. The panel in no way disputed or denied that poker was a game of skill, and there is a growing subset of Congress and state governments that distinguishes between poker and casino-style gambling.
Patrick Fleming, director of litigation support for the PPA, stated that
just because the interpretation of the IGBA didn’t go our way doesn’t mean the other part about skill in poker was wrong or meaningless. In other words, Weinstein’s ruling is still relevant, and can be called upon if the issue ever comes up again. It just doesn’t apply to this particular case.