9th of February 2009 Author: Glo Wood
Conflicting rules steer argument to Superior Court
Poker fans who were cheered by the recent news that a Pennsylvania court had ruled that skill dominated chance in poker will have to wait a little longer for a definitive legal opinion following the news late last week that the issue has been referred to the Pennsylvanian Superior Court.
The skill vs. chance issue is critical to defining the legality of poker in many states.
Local newspaper the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that what appears to be a subsequent conflicting decision by another Pennsylvanian judge has made the referral necessary. The conflicting decision included a reference to state gambling law as being "...unconstitutionally vague when it comes to poker tournaments."
In the original case against Walter Watkins and Diane Dent, Judge Thomas James ruled that poker in the state was not an unlawful activity because skill dominated chance, thus removing it from the legal definition of illegality as a "game of chance". In reaching his decision, the judge was aided by a large volume of expert evidence and literature.
Then came the decision by fellow Pennsylvanian judge Richard McCormick who, in trying a case against Larry Burns who had organised volunteer fire department fund raising poker tourneys, found that such tournaments were illegal under the criminal code of Pennsylvania.
The issue may turn on the question of profit, opined Duquesne University School of Law academic, Professor Bruce Ledewitz in an interview with the newspaper.
"It's a perfectly reasonable disagreement and I'm sure it will be resolved by the Superior Court," Ledewitz said, pointing out that the differences in the cases were that Watkins-Dent had accepted tips rather than a formal rake, whilst the later case against Burns involved him taking a percentage of the profits from the poker games.
Presumably the Superior Court in Pennsylvania will also take congisance of another recent finding in Colorado, where Kevin Raley was successfully defended with expert evidence from the University of Denver that poker was a game of skill and not predominaently chance.
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