Two men indicted on Black Friday claim poker is SKILL

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Oct 03, 2011 Posted in Legal Poker News | No Comments »

Two of the 11 people named in the Department of Justice’s criminal complaint filed on April 15th, 2011, after the crackdown on online poker sites operating in the United States, were in court Monday. The duo is apparently pinning their hopes on the defense that poker is not gambling, and is in fact a game of skill, and therefore does not fall under the UIGEA law.

Chad Elie and John Campos both entered not guilty pleas on Friday and Monday respectively, with their lawyers arguing that the government is stretching gambling laws to prosecute the defendants as well as bring charges against the nine other men charged on what has become known as Black Friday.

In the indictments unsealed on April 15, 2011, Elie was charged with persuading Campos’ bank, SunFirst Bank located in St. George, Utah, to process online poker transactions from sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt poker, and Absolute Poker –which is ostensibly illegal under UIGEA legislation.

According to the AP, Elie’s attorney submitted a written statement to the court stating that in poker the house charges a fee to allow players to participate and to provide a venue, and does not participate in the game itself: “The players compete against each other on a level playing field, using an array of talents and skill to prevail over their opponents,” Elie’s attorney also cited the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, which differentiates between poker and other luck based games like blackjack and baccarat.

The AP article made the point that Campos’s lawyer mentioned that Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress that determining if Poker is a game of skill or luck “beyond his capabilities”. Further stating that, “The distinction between the poker companies in this case and websites that offer casino-style games and sports betting is stark. Online operators of casino-style games like roulette and slots are playing against their own patrons. Likewise, sports betting websites are also on the opposite side of their customers’ bets. Those operators make profits from their customers’ losses,” the lawyers said. “The poker companies did not participate in the games, and had no risk or stake in the outcome of the games. Instead, the companies provided virtual facilities for the games, and collected, in exchange, a fee for each hand played.”

This could very well become a landmark case in the battle for poker legislation, both online and in brick & mortar settings, as the debate over the skill vs. luck aspect of poker has been debated ad nauseam in state courts around the country, and remains one of the strongest arguments for advocates of poker legalization and regulation.

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