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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Colorado Poker Player to Appeal Case to Supreme Court

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It seemed as if this case was done and over, with the defendant not guilty of gambling and the game of skill argument accepted by the court. But the state of Colorado had other things in mind. Though they cannot retry Kevin Raley for “professional gambling,” the original charge that stemmed from his bar poker game, the state appealed the ruling that poker on the basis that the skill game argument had no place in the case. With that, the Kevin Raley and the Poker Players Alliance are taking it all the way to the Supreme Court.

The case of Colorado vs. Kevin Raley came to light in January of 2009, after Raley and others were arrested during a 2008 raid of Rafferty’s Bar in Greeley, Colorado. The bar poker league was deemed “professional gambling,” and organizers and dealers were changed with the crime under Colorado state law. However, since the law provides exemptions for “bona fide contests of skill,” Raley’s attorney argued that poker fell into that category, even bringing in a statistics professor from the University of Denver, Robert Hannum, to testify to that argument. The jury then returned a “not guilty” verdict, the judge agreed, and Raley’s charges were dismissed.

Months later, the state appealed to the district court on the basis that Hannum should not have been allowed to testify because poker as a skill game was not in question. Colorado maintains, according to the state, that poker is regarded as gambling, and the appeal looked to clarify that point. And it did. In Weld County on August 4, District Court Judge James Hartmann ruled that the original presiding judge should have never allowed Hannum’s testimony.

Hartmann wrote in his appeal decision: “The activity at issue in this case involved gambling and the only exception that properly should have been presented to the jury for consideration was whether the activity fell within the social gambling exception.”

With that, Raley and his attorney decided to resume their fight in the case and appeal the district court’s decision. Raley will file a petition to have the case reviewed by the Colorado Supreme Court, and the appeal process will be financed by the Poker Players Alliance.

PPA Executive Director John Pappas noted, “Given the Weld County District Court judge’s ruling that poker is gambling because of the small element of chance in the dealing of cards, one could easily presume that any game that depends even a little on chance - from Monopoly to Yahtzee to Candy Land - is gambling and therefore illegal in the state of Colorado. We clearly think this is the wrong interpretation of the law, especially in regard to poker, and the PPA is committed to helping demonstrate to the Colorado Supreme Court the broad academic research that exists showing that poker is indeed a game of skill.”

Raley added, “The choice to petition the Colorado Supreme Court is about more than me or my friends, it’s about all poker players’ opportunity to ensure that current Colorado law recognizes that poker is a game of skill and is based on much more than the luck of the draw. So much has changed regarding poker and how the game is perceived publicly, it is disheartening to see this great game treated as a crime because of a misapplication of the law.”

It is not known when the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to hear the case.

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