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Courts rule on poker, Internet gambling cases

Jan 27, 2009 5:09 PM
Staff & Wire Reports |

Two key court rulings that could affect poker, Internet gambling or poker on the Internet were handed down last week in separate decisions.

The first stemmed from a case in Pennsylvania, where a Columbia County judge dismissed gambling charges against the operators of a garage poker room, citing Texas Hold’em as a "game of skill."

The second decision was handed down by a Kentucky Court of Appeals judge who rejected the state’s attempt to seize 141 Internet domain names. The decision has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The Pennsylvania decision was hailed as "the first important legal decision of 2009" by noted gambling lawyer I. Nelson Rose of Whittier College in California.

Prosecutors in the case had charged the poker room operators with unlawfully soliciting and allowing "persons to collect and assemble for the purpose of gambling."

But the judge relied on four principles to determine whether gambling was involved: whether each player had enough data to make an informed choice; whether each player had the skill or opportunity to exercise skill in the game; whether skill sufficiently governs the outcome; and that the standard of skill is known to all players.

He eventually sided with the poker experts that "in the long run, good players will win money and bad players will lose money."

Professor Rose deemed the decision important "because it is the first case to look at recent literature and current scientific studies," and to use them in forming a decision as to whether poker is a game of skill or chance.

In Kentucky, the state is seeking to seize 141 Internet domain names for off-shore gambling web sites. The appeals court reversed a lower court ruling that the state could proceed.

The trial court had decided that domain names equated to "gambling devices," a notion the appeals court said "stretches the credulity … that a series of numbers or Internet addresses" could constitute a "gambling device."

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear filed an appeal to the decision with the Kentucky Supreme Court.

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