Lawrence Dicristina was convicted of operating an illegal poker room in New York in 2011. Federal Judge Jack Weinstein overturned the verdict. Weinstein said that poker is a game of skill, which means that it doesn’t fall under the scope of the Illegal Gambling Business Act.
The jury’s original verdict was upheld on appeal and Dicristina’s lawyers were forced to take the case to the Supreme Court. The court is expected to decide whether it will hear Dicristina’s case later today.
Dicristina’s lawyers argue that the law is very vague on what forms of gambling are actually illegal. Their chief argument is centered on a six word phrase in the IGBA – “includes but is not limited to.” The law lists several forms of gambling that are considered illegally. However, poker is not listed there.
Dicristina’s lawyers said that the law should specify every law that is illegal so that there is no room for doubt. They said that many judges can interpret the law differently. They could take the case back to a lower court to prove their point, but decided to take it to the Supreme Court instead.
Many of their colleagues feel that they made a solid legal argument. However, the appeals court appears to have disagreed. The Supreme Court will need to be the final arbitrator of the law.
A Supreme Court ruling could have a considerable impact on the future of online poker. If the court decided that poker didn’t fall under the scope of the IGBA then it would be much easier for online poker to be legalized.
However, it isn’t clear whether or not the Supreme Court will hear the case. The court only considers cases that are significant for constitutional reasons. Dicristina’s lawyers are confident that they will hear it, because they argue that it infringes on the constitution in three different ways.