Poker Coverage: Poker Tournaments Casino News Sports Betting Poker Strategy

Poker In Court: U.S. v. DiCristina Reversed

PPA Calls Ruling 'Unfortunate' But Doesn't Change Poker As Game Of Skill


On Tuesday, a federal court overturned the ruling from U.S. v. Lawrence DiCristina in August 2012, which included testimony that poker is a game of skill, rather than chance.

The lower court had reached a judgment of acquittal in favor of Lawrence DiCristina, setting aside the guilty verdict on a couple of counts related to the Illegal Gambling Business Act, a federal statute. DiCristina was arrested in 2011 and charged and convicted of running an illegal gambling business.

He currently faces up to a decade in prison for spreading a poker game in a Staten Island, New York warehouse while taking a five-percent rake.

DiCristina and a co-defendant pleaded guilty on December 12, 2011, but on May 1, 2012 DiCristina was permitted to withdraw his guilty plea, and the case proceeded to trial.

The lower court run by Judge Jack Weinstein decided to set aside the guilty verdict because it said poker isn’t covered by the IGBA. The federal government appealed the decision.

“Because we find that the plain language of the IGBA covers DiCristina’s poker business, we reverse the judgment of acquittal and remand to the District Court with instructions to reinstate the jury verdict, enter a judgment of conviction on both counts, and proceed with sentencing DiCristina,” the ruling from the higher court stated.

The Poker Players Alliance called the decision “unfortunate” but that the “2nd Circuit clearly did not dispute the district court’s finding that poker is a game of skill,” adding that “this is a key point distinguishing poker from the types of gambling games that Congress and state legislatures have often tried to prohibit. What the court did was conclude that the IGBA doesn’t set forth an independent federal definition of gambling, but instead only incorporates state law.”

In other words, Tuesday’s ruling is bad news for DiCristina, but not so bad for the poker community at large, according to the Poker Players Alliance.

“The PPA stands ready to support Mr. DiCristina should he choose to appeal this decision, and we are committed to working through the judicial and legislative processes to establish a clear definition of gambling based on the predominance test,” the PPA concluded.



8 years ago

Really, do the Feds have nothing better to do with their time, resources, and power than to prosecute someone for hosting a poker game? There was a time when Federal prosecutors indicted only major organized crime figures, leaving the rest for state prosecutors to pursue or not pursue. Now, it appears that no violation of the law, no matter how insignificant or harmless, is too small for them.


8 years ago

The problem with DiCristina is that his operation wasn't big enough. If he had been running a $50 billion empire that was funded with bank loans and wall street investors, surely, he would have been offered a cane to lean on by the gov't rather than being hit over the head with one.


Wall St is allowed to gamble hundreds of billions. Yet, the common citizen is disallowed to gamble a hundred. I don't think that disallowing the citizen from gambling is necessarily a bad thing, but the rules should be the same across the societal spectrum, whether it's main street or wall street.