In breaking news from South Carolina, Judge Larry Duffy “wrote that there is ‘overwhelming’ evidence that the card game is one of skill, not chance,” according to the Associated Press. Nevertheless, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), which has been heavily involved in the case, was still faced with the five defendants being found guilty.
The case centers on the actions of Bob Chimento, who along with Jeremy Brestel, Scott Richards, Michael Williamson, and John T. Willis were arrested in 2006 for playing poker in a house in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Nate Stallings, a renter in the home when the arrests took place three years ago, told ABC 4 News, “The prosecution is trying to drill the fact that there was a house whose sole purpose was gaming.” At the end of the day, Judge Duffy ruled that, although Texas Hold’em is indeed a game of skill, no clear guideline of whether skill should be the “dominant factor” exists from the South Carolina legislature or Supreme Court to declare their innocence.
The PPA brought in two high-profile witnesses to testify that poker is a game of skill. One was World Poker Tour Host and Poker News Daily Columnist Mike Sexton, who told the news station, “I believe in fighting for the rights of poker players. I believe that every poker player should have the right to play in the privacy of their own home.” The PPA fronted Sexton’s $5,000 appearance fee. Also sponsored by the PPA was Professor Robert Hannum, Professor of Statistics at the University of Denver, who described the mathematical elements of poker. Hannum also testified at a successful poker court hearing in Colorado.
Judge Duffy cited that Sexton gave “uncontroverted testimony.” He then clearly stated, “This Court, based on the… stated facts, finds that Texas Hold’em is a game of skill. The evidence and studies are overwhelming that this is so.” Judge Duffy alluded to a recent ruling in Pennsylvania in which Judge Thomas A. James utilized a number of sources, including Mike Caro’s “Secrets of Winning Poker,” to make the same determination.
Judge Duffy continued, noting that Stallings “advertised on the Internet, took twenty dollar buy-ins, [and] took a rake out of the pot to cover the food and drink provided.” Stallings pled guilty to operating a gambling house in January of 2007, paying a $747 fine. With regards to the five defendants, Judge Duffy mandated, “This Court will not see itself to definitively conclude that this State will or does follow the ‘Dominant Test’ Theory and thus is compelled… to find the defendants guilty… and therefore required to pay the fines and assessments required by such a violation.” The lack of a clear definition of illegal gambling in South Carolina, therefore, contributed to the mixed ruling.
Twenty people in total were arrested in 2006. Instead of a friendly home game, police allegedly seized thousands of dollars in cash from the scene along with marijuana. On being able to recruit Sexton to participate in the East Coast case, PPA Executive Director John Pappas told Poker News Daily, “We’ve always envisioned that it would be important to have a professional poker player describe the skills to be successful at the game.”
In November of 2007, Ultimate Bet poker pro Annie Duke testified in front of the United States Congress on behalf of the PPA in a hearing about internet gambling. The hearing occurred one year after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was pushed through Congress and one year before its regulations were finalized as part of midnight rulemaking by the outgoing Bush Administration.
The PPA Twitter page featured constant updates while the trial, which was held last Friday, was taking place. The PPA expects an appeal in the case by the five defendants. We’ll have more information on this breaking story as it develops.