Poker is Game of Skill, Not Gambling Under Federal Law, Judge Rules

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on August 22, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

For all those poker enthusiasts who want to cut back on their gambling habit: fear not. Poker is not gambling, at least not in New York.

Not so fast though. The ruling from a federal court judge only applies to federal law. Gambling is still illegal in the state of New York and there's a good chance that covers poker.

The judge's decision resulted from a case alleging that a man who ran an underground poker club had violated laws against gambling. The judge overturned a jury's verdict ruling that the man he wasn't gambling in the first place.

We had to take a second to think about this one too.

The reasoning from Judge Jack Weinstein is that gambling is predominantly a game of chance. Poker, on the other hand, is a game of skill, reports ABC News.

To support his position, Judge Weinstein referred to the history of poker in the U.S. He also relied on expert testimony on the mechanics of poker.

This decision doesn't block laws prohibiting poker or prevent federal officials from prosecuting organized crime, as Judge Weinstein pointed out in his decision.

Many states have laws that prohibit making a business out of card games. Laws against racketeering can be used to stop organized crime rings that rely on poker. It also doesn't affect other kinds of gambling that do rely on chance. Those are still illegal under federal law and in most states.

None of those kinds of laws are affected by his ruling, reports ABC News.

The ruling likely won't do much to legalize poker playing in most states. But for people who say poker is not gambling, they have a friend in this New York federal judge.

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