Virginia Judge Rules Poker Illegal Gambling

November 12, 2011
Virginia Judge Rules Poker Illegal Gambling

A Portsmouth Virginia Court has dealt a seemingly final blow to a former poker room owner’s attempt to reopen his establishment.  This past Friday, Judge Thomas Shadrick struck down a lawsuit filed by Charles Daniels after determining that poker does indeed constitute illegal gambling in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The issue began last year when Daniels was forced to close down the Poker Palace in Portsmouth.  It has been running for around four years and regularly held charity poker tournaments as well as cash games. Around 74 percent of the revenue received by the poker room was given to charity.

However, in 2010, Commonwealth Attorney Earl C. Mobley threatened to prosecute Daniel for illegal gambling and effectively shut down the poker room.  Daniel soon filed a lawsuit and his cause was picked up by the Poker Player’s Alliance.   Former WSOP Main Event Champion Greg Raymer even agreed to serve as a witness for Daniels.

During Raymer’s testimony, he setup a game of Texas Hold’em in the court room and gave a quick poker lesson to the judge, stressing the game as one of skill.  That is actually what Daniel’s entire argument is based on.  He contends that since poker is a game of skill, it does not meet Virginia law for illegal gambling.

In Virginia, illegal gambling is defined as wagering something of value on something on a contest where the outcome is either “uncertain or a matter of chance.  Some forms of gambling are exempt in the state, such as bingo and the Virginia lottery.

Raymer also testified that a player can increase their chances for success through various methods, such as being able to calculate pot odds on the fly and reading opponents physical tells.  In addition, Daniels also argued that Virginia’s law is a bit too vague.  He used betting on farm commodity futures as an example.

Eventually, Judge Shadrick concluded that while poker can indeed involve skill, the result of each individual hand is still uncertain.  In addition, he ruled that the law was not unconstitutionally vague and that a man of common intelligence could comprehend it.

This is the second time in two weeks that poker has been touted as illegal gambling by either the courts or the government.  Last week, the DOJ stated in their response to the Black Friday dismissal request by Chad Elie and John Campos that poker is commonly accepted as gambling and that there was no difference in online poker and other forms of gambling like sports betting because a player can improve their odds with superior knowledge.

Whether these arguments begin to set a legal precedence for the argument of skill vs. luck remains to be seen.  Further Congressional hearings on the matter are scheduled for next week as steps toward legalization appears to be beginning.

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