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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Lawrence DiCristina case declined by U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court
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A two-year court battle by Lawrence DiCristina to prove that poker is a game of skill just hit the end of the road. On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear DiCristina's case which was wrapped around defining whether or not the main statute used in the Black Friday indictments applies to poker.

DiCristina ran a poker game — for profit — in his bicycle warehouse shop in New York and he was charged with violating a 1970s-era federal law, the Illegal Gambling Business Act which was aimed at slot machines, lotteries, and bookmaking.

It's possible since this is the first time the Supreme Court would have to take a case with poker as the point in question, that reason alone may be why none of the justices opted to write a dissenting opinion as to why the case should have been taken by the Supreme Court. Then again, all cases are considered a long shot when it comes to petitioning the highest court in the U.S. to hear a case.

The lack of attention and finalization of whether or not poker is a game of skill and should not be considered a crime gives the Justice Department ammunition to continue using the Illegal Gambling Business Act against citizens and Internet entities in states where it's not permitted.

DiCristina has been free on bail and must return to the Eastern District Court in Brooklyn for sentencing from Judge Jack Weinstein. Although DiCristina has no previous record or aggravating circumstances to justify the stiffest penalty of a maximum sentence of five years, it's difficult to surmise what can happen when he goes back to court. He may possibly receive leniency since the Weinstein did toss the previous conviction out — it was overruled by a higher court at a later date.

In 2011 DiCristina was arrested and the U.S. District Court convicted him in July 2012 when the judge instructed the jury to consider poker under the IGBA to be illegal. Just a short month later, Weinstein overturned the conviction when he agreed with a post-trial motion that poker is not illegal under the IGBA because it is a game of skill. The conviction was reinstated by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in August of 2013. The decision indicated that it didn't matter if poker was included in the definition of gambling under the IGBA or if it was a game of skill...A game could be considered illegal gambling by state law and would trigger the IGBA.

Will Weinstein's opinion on poker being a skill-based game have any bearing on DiCristina's sentencing hearing? Only time will tell.

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