There have been many twists and turns in the Full Tilt saga and the latest one concerns an attempt by the defence lawyers to claim that as stated recently by a New York judge “Poker is a game of skill” and so does not come under the terms of legislation which bans online gambling in the United States. With its decision that online casino games and online poker are not covered by the Wire Act of 1961 the United States Department’s opinion has caused confusion across the country with several states still considering online poker and casino games illegal while others push to legalise intrastate internet gaming.
The confusion has arisen from the ruling that “Interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to “a sporting event or contest”” are not affected by the 1961 Wire Act.In the two years since this Department of Justice opinion there has been opposition between states and groups who either wish to go ahead with individual legislation and regulation of online poker within each state and those who wish to have federal legislation. It’s too early to say if the ruling by Judge Jack Weinstein in a federal District Court in New York will have an effect on this ongoing debate. However the defence lawyers for the three FullTilt Poker ex- board members, Chris Ferguson, Rafe Furst and Howard Lederer are hoping that the judge’s ruling that poker is not a game of chance and therefore not included in illegal gambling will help their case. The lawyers for the three defendants have asked the court for a status conference.
The three Full Tilt board members face prosecution for their part in what the prosecuting attorney in the case, Preet Bharara referred to as a “global Ponzi scheme”. When federal agents seized the domain names of three leading online poker sites, PokerStars, FullTilt Poker and Absolute Poker, in April 2011, the online poker world was badly affected. Earlier this year the former CEO of FullTilt Poker, Ray Bitar apologised to those affected by the events of poker’s “Black Friday”. Ray Bitar was arrested when he arrived in the United States.It remains to be seen whether a ruling in a case involving the running of an alleged illegal gambling business in a New York warehouse will have repercussions on a major case affecting millions of poker players worldwide.