Gambling in the News, by Denise F. Quirk
The Wall Street Journal writer Alexandra Berzon does a wonderful job following the scent of anything having to do with gambling from her post in Los Angeles. On August 23, 2012 she reported in the Journal that a “U.S. Judge Gives Poker a Break: A Ruling That Game Doesn’t Qualify as Gambling is Boost for Push to Legalize it Online.” Did you happen to hear about this and wonder what it meant? The staff at the RPGC certainly did, and thanks to some quick research by Colin Hodgen, we discovered that the ruling had to do with a federal judge taking a position on the gaming laws of the State of New York.
At the end of the day, playing poker in a warehouse in New York was not found to be a form of illegal gambling, and the defendant could not be indicted for the charge of a gambling crime (operating an illegal poker establishment). The judge said that “poker isn’t predominated by chance, which is a common legal definition of gambling.” Judge Jack Weinsten believed there was more skill than chance involved in playing Texas Hold ‘Em. The expert witness who explained his version of poker playing (Heeb) is an economist, statistician, and poker player. The federal judge’s decision to overturn the state’s indictment also noted exactly what the federal statute describes as gambling: “includ[ing] but . . . not limited to pool-selling, bookmaking, maintaining slot machines, roulette wheels or dice tables, and conducting lotteries, policy, bolita or numbers games, or selling chances therein.” Interesting, isn’t it? If your ancient legislators didn’t put “Texas Hold ‘Em” or other forms of Poker in the books, it’s not officially gambling? (The link to the entire legal decision is :
Several times in this decision, Judge Weinstein made reference to poker being “predominantly a game of skill.” I take a different view, and refer you to the Gamblers Anonymous definition of gambling, which you can find at www.gamblersanonymous.org:
“Any betting or wagering, for self or others, whether for money or not, no matter how slight or insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon chance or “skill” constitutes gambling.”
Granted, a compulsive gambler is someone addicted to gambling. In this article, a person playing poker with friends is not necessarily addicted. At issue, to me, is the definition of gambling, and when it becomes a problem. While many of us grew up playing gambling-type games, most of us knew there was a limit, some risk, and always chance involved. Very few of us would delude ourselves into believing we could “out-skill” someone…that is, unless we were addicted ourselves and in that “dream world” of a compulsive gambler. I am disappointed that Judge Weinstein chose to listen to the advice of a professional gambler and choose words like “skill” over “chance.” I’m confused that he claims poker is not only a different kind of gambling, but in his opinion, not gambling at all. Like I said, I respectfully disagree.