Is poker considered gambling? Higher court overrules Brooklyn federal judge’s decision

August 6, 2013 By Charisma L. Miller, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A federal appeals court in New York has reinstated the gambling conviction of a man who operated an underground poker club. The decision overruled Brooklyn Federal Judge Jack Weinstein’s decision to toss out Lawrence Dicristina’s 2012 conviction.

Weinstein ruled that poker is more a game of skill than chance and therefore Dicristina cannot be prosecuted under a law created to stop organized crime families from making millions of dollars from gambling.

In July 2012, a jury convicted Dicristina, who had been charged with conspiring to operate an illegal underground poker club — a business featuring Texas Hold ’em games run out of a warehouse where he also sold electric bicycles.

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There were no allegations in the case that organized crime was involved or that anything illegal such as money laundering or loansharking occurred. “Because the poker played on the defendant’s premises is not predominantly a game of chance, it is not gambling” as defined in the federal law, Weinstein wrote in his ruling last year.

Weinstein’s decision was the first federal court decision on the issue of whether poker is a game of skill rather than gambling.

“As we worked for years defending players against vague gambling laws, we have patiently waited for the right opportunity to raise the issue in federal court. [Weinstein’s] federal court ruling is a major victory for the game of poker and the millions of Americans who enjoy playing it,” John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, said at the time of Weinstein’s ruling.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says Dicristina should be sentenced for his conviction under a law created to stop organized crime from operating gambling dens.


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