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Possible Setback in Poker Skill Vs Chance Debate

April 8, 2010 (CAP Newswire) – In a setback to the goal of getting poker legally classified as a game of skill, not chance — and thus getting Internet poker exempted from the anti-gambling laws prevalent in the U.S. — the state of Pennsylvania has overruled an earlier decision stating that poker is a game of skill.

Specifically, a Pennsylvania appeals court recently overturned a lower county judge’s decision that Texas Hold ‘Em was a game of skill, not chance, and therefore not illegal under state law.

“Defense attorney Howard Bashman said the ruling is the first in which a Pennsylvania court has addressed whether poker is a game of skill or chance,” states an article from the Associated Press. “He said he does not know whether his clients, 45-year-old Bloomsburg residents Diane Dent and Walter Watkins, will appeal to the state Supreme Court, but he believes their case is a strong one.”

“President Judge Kate Ford Elliott and Senior Judge Robert Freedberg cited the opinions of other courts in ruling that some skill is involved in poker but it is predominantly a game of chance,” the article continues.

True to their mission, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) has filed briefs supporting the defendants, who were charged back in 2008 for hosting Texas Hold ‘Em poker games in a private residence.

If there’s good news to this, it was that the decision was close — it was a three-judge panel, and the decision was two to one. That’s hardly an overwhelming majority. Still, though, it does carry significant legal weight, and there is a risk that this could be the final word on the matter in the state, at least in Pennsylvania.

The whole story underlines the importance to online poker affiliates of the ongoing legal action in the U.S., and how the smallest decisions can have far-reaching effects. In this case, a dangerous precedent could be set throughout the U.S. that dictates online poker’s legal status for years to come.