Colorado jury agrees poker is game of skill

Colorado Rocky Mountains

Poker is on a bit of a hot streak, at least in the courts. Following on the victory in the Kentucky domain name case and the recent ruling by a Pennsylvania court judge that poker is a game of skill comes news out of Colorado of another win for poker.

There, a jury found the organizer of a poker league not guilty of illegal gambling.

What had started as a friendly poker tournament at Rafferty's, a Greeley, Colo., bar, ended up with the organizer, Kevin Raley, facing charges of illegal gambling. Law enforcement agencies had raided Rafferty's last August and arrested Raley and four others under Colorado's antigambling law.

But Raley, aided by the Poker Players Alliance and its Litigation Support Network, fought the lawsuit. His attorney Todd Taylor presented expert testimony by University of Denver statistics professor Robert Hannum that poker is a game of skill. As such, Taylor argued, it was exempt from the antigambling statute under which Raley was prosecuted.

That statute defines illegal gambling as "risking any money, credit, deposit, or other thing of value for gain contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, the operation of a gambling device, or the happening or outcome of an event, including a sporting event, over which the person taking a risk has no control, but does not include bona fide contests of skill."

Professor Hannum is the author of Practical Casino Math, which uses mathematical theory to evaluate various casino games, and teaches classes such as the Art and Science of Poker. He testified at trial that poker was primarily a game of skill and not of chance. The jury agreed and found Raley not guilty of illegal gambling.

"The PPA is pleased with the outcome of this case. It is further confirmation that poker is indeed a game of skill, not chance," said Gary Reed, the Colorado state director of the PPA.

"At the same time, the not guilty verdict cements the rights of Colorado citizens to enjoy the American pastime of poker and will allow law enforcement to use its scarce resources to investigate real unlawful activity in the state, not poker games."

The defendant was understandably happy with the outcome of the prosecution. "I am pleased that the jury agreed that my actions in organizing a poker league did not constitute illegal gambling," said Raley. "As a proud member of the PPA, I want to thank them for their support of my case."

This win was also a victory for the PPA Litigation Support Network, a free service to PPA members which provides legal advice as well as attorney referrals for those with poker-related legal issues.

Launched in March of 2008, the Litigation Support Network offers free, preliminary legal advice over the phone, a list of available attorneys and additional help in the defense of their case.

The PPA was contacted by Raley and his attorney after his arrest and offered its assistance in his defense, paying part of the expert witness's fees and providing research materials to demonstrate that poker is a game of skill, not chance.

As expected, the PPA was pleased with the successful outcome of this case.

"Today's ruling is the third victory for the poker community in less than a week ... that protects an individual's right to play poker at a time and place of their choosing," said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA, referring to the favorable Kentucky and Pennsylvania decisions.

"The momentum continues in our favor, and the PPA will continue to champion such causes in other states as well as at the national level."

Although encouraging, these recent victories are not the end of the story. The fight to protect players' rights continues. As the winning defendant in this latest skirmish said, "The poker players have to work together as a group on this."

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