Court Reverses DiCristina Decision, But Skill Issue Remains Unresolved

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A negative development for poker players in the federal courts today, as the 2nd Circuit Court reversed an earlier decision in U.S. v. Lawrence DiCristina, finding that DiCristina violated federal law by operating a for-profit poker game.

You can read the full decision here.

The reversal comes after a hearing that many interpreted as being favorable for DiCristina.

What was the basis for the court’s reversal?

In very simple terms:

  • The court found that DiCristina’s activity needed only violate the gambling laws of the state in which it took place (New York), rendering a debate on the IGBA definition of gambling moot.
  • The court then found that DiCristina met all of the preconditions for an IGBA violation, rendering the question of whether poker is a game of skill moot.

DiamondFlushPoker has a good overview of where the Second Circuit found room for reversal. And here’s a similar recap from Jake Sommer at ZwillGen.

The full text of the decision is available here.

A statement from the PPA’s John Pappas clarified the scope of the ruling: “The 2nd Circuit clearly did not dispute the district court’s finding that poker is a game of skill […] What the court did was conclude that the IGBA does not set forth an independent federal definition of gambling, but instead only incorporates state law.”

Immediate impacts for poker players

The DiCristina case is significant in the larger sense of poker’s legality and how the federal government interprets the IGBA as it relates to poker.

And there are obviously impacts for others currently facing IGBA charges related to poker, or those who fear exposure to the IGBA for poker-related activity.

But with the issue of poker as a game of skill not in play in the appeal, there are few immediate impacts for poker advocates at large.

Reactions from players & industry

Next steps for DiCristina

DiCristina can attempt an appeal of this ruling. The next step on the federal level would be either to request an en banc review (h/t Grange95) or to petition the Supreme Court.

The PPA has said that they are “ready to support Mr. DiCristina should he choose to appeal this decision, and we are committed to working through the judicial and legislative processes to establish a clear definition of gambling based on the predominance test.”

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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