WASHINGTON Feb 24 The U.S. Supreme Court on
Monday declined to weigh whether poker is a contest of skill or
luck, meaning people can still be prosecuted under federal law
for organizing games.
The court said it would not hear an appeal filed by Lawrence
DiCristina, who was convicted under the law, the Illegal
Gambling Business Act, for running games of "Texas Hold 'Em" at
a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, which he publicized by
text message and word of mouth.
Poker advocates say the government has stacked the deck by
using a law aimed at targeting organized crime to punish people
organizing small-stakes games. They point out poker should not
be covered by the law in part because it is a game of skill
rather than a game of chance. In the law, the definition of
gambling mentions only games of chance, DiCristina's supporters
In August, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York
reversed a district court decision from 2012 that said
DiCristina could not be prosecuted because "Texas Hold 'Em" was
a game of skill. The appeals court accepted that poker is a game
of skill but said DiCristina could still be prosecuted.
The law was enacted in 1970 to combat organized crime. The
law makes it illegal to run a gambling business that violates a
state's laws and either earns more than $2,000 a day or remains
in operation for more than 30 days.
In his August 2012 ruling, U.S. District Judge Jack
Weinstein in Brooklyn said the statute was ambiguous as to what
gambling it covered and that "Texas Hold 'Em" - as a game of
skill - was not covered by the anti-gambling law.
DiCristina faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The case is DiCristina v. United States, 13-564.
(Additional reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by