Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Conflicting Rulings on Poker as a Skill: You win some, you lose some

Not more than two weeks after a Pennsylvania judge dismissed gambling charges against the organizer and dealer of a Texas Hold'em home game, finding that poker was not gambling under Pennsylvania law as it was a game of skill, a different Pennsylvania judge has reached a different conclusion.

Westmoreland County Judge Richard McCormick Jr., refused to dismiss charges against three men who ran a Texas Hold'em poker tournament at a local volunteer fire departments.

The defendants' attorney, David Millstein, had argued that the case against his clients should be dismissed on two grounds, that the state law prohibiting illegal gambling is vague and that poker is not gambling because it involves skill, not mere chance.

Judge McCormick, however, ruled against the defendants on both grounds.

Earlier last month, Columbia County Judge Thomas A. James saw things quite differently, writing a lengthy opinion discussing the nature of the game of poker and all the research and books which establish it as a game of skill.

Should the defendants in the Westmoreland County case appeal Judge McCormick's decision, this could pave the way for a final showdown on the issue in the state's highest court -- a chance to get a state supreme court to weigh in on this important topic. So far, the argument that poker should not be considered "gambling" as it is a skill-based game has not had a major platform. And a number of different decisions have recently come out with different results.

It is just this type of inconsistent rulings and lack of uniformity which makes it the right time to get poker once and for all ruled to be exempt from anti-gambling restrictions.

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