Washington, DC (February 19, 2009) –The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with more than one million members nationwide (nearly 10,000 in South Carolina), today expressed cautious optimism with a ruling in the Mount Pleasant, S.C. poker case and applauded the Court’s findings that poker is a game of skill, not chance. Though disappointed with the Court’s initial conclusion that the defendants had committed a crime, PPA expects to prevail on further review.
“We are humbled by Judge Duffy’s thoughtful decision and applaud the effort put forth by the legal team defending these poker players,” said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA. “The positive language in this ruling comes on heels of other key legal victories for the rights of poker players in Kentucky, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. It’s becoming quite clear the legal community agrees that this great American pastime is a game of predominant skill, not luck, and should not be considered gambling under the law.”
The defendants were charged with playing cards in a “house used as a place of gaming” and under South Carolina law, the term “gaming” means “gambling.” PPA argued that the Court should adopt the rulings of other courts that gambling refers to a game in which the outcome is determined predominantly by chance, not by skill.
PPA provided for expert testimony, making the compelling case that poker is a game of skill involving the making of correct decisions rather that mere chance, and therefore not illegal gambling. The South Carolina Court found that testimony persuasive and found that poker is a game of skill.
“While I am disappointed that the judge found my clients guilty by holding them to a standard that is not defined by the law, there are many positive elements that we can take from this opinion as we prepare for the appeal,” said Jeff Phillips, the lead attorney for the five defendants in South Carolina. “Our solid legal arguments were superbly supported by the expert testimony arranged by the PPA. The testimony of Mike Sexton and Professor Robert Hannum were invaluable and helped explain the skillful essence of poker to the court. We are grateful for their involvement in this case.”
The trial court recognized that this is an “easy case” for acquittal if the proper test under South Carolina law is whether a game is predominantly one of skill. But it concluded that a higher court must decide that issue. PPA will work with the defendants to promptly appeal the case, and they expect to prevail through that appeal. The Justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court who have addressed the issue have concluded that – consistent with the rulings of other states – the “predominance” test is correct. In addition, the South Carolina Attorney General has expressly embraced the predominance test.
PPA has also been involved with a string of victories within the last three weeks. Like the court’s finding in South Carolina, in Pennsylvania, Judge Thomas James, Jr. ruled that poker is predominantly a game of skill. The Pennsylvania court took the next step and threw out 20 charges against the defendants, who held a poker game in their home. Later in the month a Colorado jury found defendant Kevin P. Raley not guilty, again because the jurors found the poker league he formed was playing a game of skill, not chance.
“The court’s finding is a tentative victory for poker players and all concerned with the rights of individuals to play this game with their friends in their own home.” said John Ridgeway, the South Carolina State Director of the PPA. “Poker is a game of skill that is enjoyed by thousands of South Carolinians, and we applaud the judge for recognizing that important distinction. We expect a higher court to agree that under the proper standard, it is not illegal to play a game of skill.”
PPA’s Litigation Support Network has been involved in each of these cases by providing expert witnesses, preparing arguments for trial, and filing amicus briefs with the courts, which can be found along with a copy of the ruling at www.pokerplayersalliance.org.