NY District Judge sides with online poker company in court case

Share on Social

Is playing poker a game of skill or luck?

According to a federal judge in the state of New York, skill plays a larger role in determining who the winner of a poker game is. This ruling gives strength to those that are trying to get online poker to become legal in the United States.

District Judge Jack Weinstein ruled an electronics dealer from New York did not violate any federal gambling laws as he ran a Texas Hold’em poker game from his warehouse stationed in Staten Island. The definition of gambling says that it is “predominated by chance” and since the judge ruled that poker was in fact a game of skill unlike roulette or slot machines.

State courts are divided on the issue that because according to federal law federal authorities have the ability to prosecute those that violate any state gambling laws. This was the first ruling which puts poker in a different category even though it is typically considered a game of chance, and normally covered by those gambling laws.

In the last decade the debate has raged about whether poker is considered a game of chance of skill. Online poker sites have flourished, as Hollywood movies and television shows have made tournament poker players into celebrities.

Many live poker tournaments are actually sponsored by online poker companies. H2 Gambling Capital, reported that in 2010 more than $20.2 billion had been wagered through online betting. The statistics are off because of how online poker currently operates in a gray area and not everything is disclosed, a major realistic estimate of this year’s online bets are about $3.5 billion. That number is a bit lower because of a huge federal crackdown that indicted 11 executive and three of the largest online poker sites.

Judge Weinstein’s ruling is only binding to this particular case and is subject to an appeal. The ruling does not have jurisdiction outside of Weinstein’s district, and federal and state laws still prevail, so this won’t allow internet poker to operate freely.

Yet still, this single decision is a major crack at the attempt to get the federal government to legalize online gaming. In the past the government said that it would no longer use the Wire Act as a way to prosecute any online gambling sites other than sports betting.