In a case that would have made Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" smile, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York vacated the conviction of the operator of "Texas Hold 'Em" poker games held in the back room of a warehouse in Staten Island, New York. The operator was arrested for operating an illegal gambling operation in violation of the Illegal Gambling Business Act (the "IGBA"), a federal law that makes it a federal, criminal offense to operate a gambling business. In vacating the conviction, the court reasoned that the IGBA did not extend to the operator by reason of poker being a game of skill, rather than a game of chance. Games of chance, such as lotteries and roulette, are won by the luckiest among a group of players, whereas in poker the winner is often times the player with the most skill. The ruling marked the first time a federal court has directly considered poker's status.
The court, noting that its decision was limited to the application of the IGBA, stated that the operator could still be prosecuted in New York state court. New York Penal Law Section 225 defines gambling as "any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor." Nonetheless, the court's decision has been widely hailed by advocates of decriminalizing poker and is expected to further help spur the growth and popularity of poker.
U.S. v. DiCristina, 11-CR-414 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 21, 2012)