Because this is Dealbreaker: A Place For Finance And Sometimes Poker™, I figured some of you would be interested to know: poker is now legal!
Sort of. Basically a fellow named Lawrence Dicristina was running a poker room in Staten Island. He was arrested by the Feds and charged under the federal Illegal Gambling Business Act. He was convicted by a jury and asked a federal judge, Jack Weinstein, to throw out the jury verdict because he ran a poker room and poker isn’t gambling. Today Judge Weinstein agreed: under federal law, poker isn’t gambling. So Dicristina is free to go.
The opinion is here and it is 120 pages; the important don’t-try-this-at-home headline is that this opinion “does not undermine the holding that poker is gambling as defined by New York law” and therefore probably illegal in New York. It’s just not federally illegal, which I suspect means that Lawrence Dicristina may follow in Sergey Aleynikov’s footsteps to state court. And this is just the opinion of one judge in one district, so consult your lawyer before you restart your online poker business/Ponzi scheme/other scheme that is not technically a Ponzi scheme: the online poker crackdown is unlikely to stop just because of this.
Nonetheless it’s a nice win for the forces of poker. The decision basically turns on whether poker is mostly a game of chance (gambling, bad) or skill (not gambling, okay). For this the court looked at the testimony of two experts, defense expert Dr. Heeb, “a respected economist, statistician, and player in national poker tournaments,” who argued that skill predominates, and prosecution expert Dr. DeRosa, an econometrician who “neither has any personal experience with poker, nor has he independently analyzed the game,” and therefore felt comfortable saying that it’s mostly a game of chance, which, okay, nice intellectual honesty prosecutors.* Given that – and, the fact that, y’know, poker is a game of skill – it’s not surprising that the judge came out for the defense.
Even if you’re not one of our readers who comes here for the gambling tips, you still may enjoy this opinion just for its recapitulation in miniature of the efficient markets hypothesis. Here is the defense expert’s money chart: Read more »