When a person commits a violation of the law, there are some changes that naturally come with the territory. One of those things that do not change is that the person continues on with their employment, usually making special arrangements to continue to work. What happens when your job is “international poker professional,” though?
In the courts of New York, recent decisions in cases that involve notable poker players have resulted in those players being able to leave the Empire State – usually while out on bail. The October 2012 arrest of poker pro Amnon Filippi saw the player restricted in his travels. Filippi surrendered his passport to authorities and was even fitted with a monitoring bracelet that kept him in the New York City area. After meetings in court since that time, Filippi has been able to travel the United States with the blessing of the courts.
The same situation has occurred in the massive case by the U. S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York in their April indictments against several top poker pros. Abe Mosseri, who was one of the players charged in the case allegedly involving Russian organized crime figures and money laundering, was able to get a hearing this past May to allow for him to travel to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker (Filippi had a similar case that allowed him to do the same). “This is not Mr. Mosseri’s desire to get some hot weather in Vegas,” his attorney, Michael Bachner, stated at the time.
Another figure allegedly involved in the Russian case, Justin ‘BoostedJ’ Smith, has already pled guilty to lesser charges and paid a $500,000 fine. He does have jail time potentially facing him come January 2014, but he is also being allowed to continue to travel the poker circuit until his actual sentencing at that time.
So why are these gentlemen being allowed to travel to Las Vegas, California and other poker hotspots? It is because it is their job to play poker for a living and, if the courts didn’t make allowances for them to pursue their livelihoods, it would be a potential issue if any of the cases come under review.
“(Mr. Mosseri) just wants to engage in his livelihood,” Bachner stated during Mosseri’s hearing before the WSOP. “(Poker) is a legal activity that he has done for many, many years.” Smith’s attorney, Mark MacDougall, used much the same reasoning in negotiating Smith’s continued play on the circuit, saying to U. S. District Judge Jesse Furman during Smith’s plea deal earlier this month, “(Mr. Smith) make a living by lawful poker playing and poker tournaments and supports members of his family that way.”
The decision by judges to allow the players to continue their livelihood isn’t surprising, according to I. Nelson Rose, one of the foremost authorities on gaming law and a professor at the Whittier Law School. Some of the charges the people face, Rose believes, only apply to certain forms of gaming such as sports betting. “There’s not a federal law that says someone can’t play poker,” Rose continues and, as such, the courts are correct in allowing the players to continue to ply their trade.
In the case of those charged in the Russian case, Rose believes that everyone is in agreement that they will abide by the laws and return to court when their cases are set to be heard. In Filippi’s case, he has been able to not only travel to Las Vegas but also Atlantic City and Los Angeles. Each time he has left the New York area, Filippi has returned and hasn’t missed any appointments or “check ins” that he had to agree to in being allowed to continue to follow his profession.
While these men are facing some serious charges, the courts are correct in allowing them to continue to do their job, even if that means heading to a casino to play a game that some take part in as recreation.