While it remains a formidable longshot, the Supreme Court may be asked to decide under what circumstances poker is gambling prohibited by federal law. A petition for certiorari filed on Nov. 13, 2013 asks the Court to take the matter up in the coming term. The Court likely will decide whether or not to accept the case in February, but it remains a long shot.
We have been following the outcome of the trial of Mr. Lawrence DiCristina who was convicted of running an illegal No Limit Texas Hold’em game in a Staten Island back-room. He was convicted after a jury trial in federal district court in Brooklyn. The jury concluded he violated the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA), which outlaws “gambling businesses”. After trial, however, Federal District Judge Jack B. Weinstein set aside his conviction. Judge Weinstein thoughtfully considered a mountain of legal scholarship on the law’s view of poker, and carefully weighed conflicting expert testimony; he concluded poker did not fall within the IGBA’s definition of gambling because poker was a game in which skill predominated over chance. Unfortunately for Mr. DiCristina, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with Judge Weinstein and reinstated the conviction. On Jan. 21, Mr. DiCristina was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation.