Pennsylvania Supreme Court Might Hear Poker Case
Tuesday, 11. May 2010

An appeal was recently filed in the case involving Walter Watkins and Diane Dent in Pennsylvania which could very bring the case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. This past March, a ruling was overturned by the Pennsylvania Superior Court that found that poker is a game of skill and cannot be considered as illegal gambling under the state laws of Pennsylvania.

An undercover police officer participated in a home game hosted by Watkins and Dent in their garage in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. The game played was Texas Hold’em and Dent acted as dealer while Watkins participated in the game with their guests. It was a strictly recreational game and no rake was taken.

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) has 54,000 members in Pennsylvania and have been very much involved in the case from the onset. The PPA’s executive director, John Pappas, stated that the court only looked at other related cases and ignored any of the “academic studies and legal victories” that show that poker is, in fact, very much a game of skill.

The appeal filed cites testimony from the trial that specifically covered the advantages that an experienced and well schooled student of poker has an advantage over a less experienced player by virtue of mastering odds, knowing hand strengths and knowing the most opportune times to bluff. Even though one of the attorneys for the prosecution admitted that a ‘superior player should do well playing against less experienced players.’ Regardless of the testimony from the trial and the admission of one of the attorneys for the prosecution, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled that chance is the predominant factor in Texas Hold’em and thus considered illegal gambling.

This past January, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, signed a very significant gambling expansion bill into law. The law brought about the introduction of table games such as blackjack, poker and roulette into racetracks and casino resorts. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the law has created an estimated quarter of a billion dollars in tax revenue for the state. It remains to be seen what kind of influence the gambling movement will have on the appeal of Watkins and Dent.

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