Who or what is DiCristina, and how does it relate to Las Vegas style online poker in the United States? The United States versus DiCristina was a 2012 New York Eastern District Court case that all online poker players in the United States should thank every time they log onto their favorite online poker room. That District Court ruled that poker was a game of skill, and therefore did not constitute gambling, meaning it was not a prosecutable offense under the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA). However, the United States legal system has many layers, and an appeal has been filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit regarding that decision.
Just last week the Second Circuit was presented with oral arguments from both sides in U.S. versus DiCristina, and a ruling on the appeal is imminent. However, observers and sources close to the appeals process that were at the hearing feel strongly that the initial district court ruling will be upheld. If that happens, that would mean that online and offline poker as a game of skill, therefore a non-illegal activity, would receive even more credence. With Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware already having legalized Internet poker in the United States, three federal Internet poker measures are currently floating around the US judicial system, and many states are pushing for their own statewide online poker legislation.
More importantly, if the Second Circuit agrees with the previous district court ruling that poker is indeed a skill-based game, this would provide two levels of precedence for any future possible litigation. It is important to note that in the DiCristina case, and more recently in the District of Guam case against Wai Kim Ho, no individual poker players were charged. DiCristina and Ho ran and profited from poker games and tournaments, and any charges against them were supported by the IGBA decision that poker is considered gambling.
Wai Kim Ho has been charged along with four other individuals with “conspiracy to commit illegal gambling” according to the IGBA. Should the Second Circuit Court of Appeals back up the initial DiCristina finding that poker is a skill based game, online poker in states like Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware which have already legalized the activity, along with every other state in the US, would receive a substantial shot in the arm and level of approval. In DiCristina, expert witness Dr. Randal Heeb “summarized the results of his study of 415 million hands of No Limit Texas Hold’em.” Those hands were played over a one year period, and found a direct correlation between a player’s skill level and his/her losses or profits.
With Las Vegas online poker available in the Silver State, and ready to launch by year’s end in New Jersey and Delaware, online poker has already had many legislative victories in the United States recently. The upcoming decision in the Appeals Court of the Second District regarding the initially favorable ruling as poker being a game of skill will be important regardless of the decision. Fortunately, it appears that decision will be upheld, giving online poker substantial legal backing. As soon as that ruling is made, we will post.
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