Courts Determine Poker a Game of Chance, Not Skill

Gambling News - August 17th, 2009 - Written by Glen

Starting in Spring of 2007, an investigation surrounding Lawrence Burns of Pennsylvania began. Authorities were searching for organized poker tournaments, and this is precisely what they found. Undercover officers had attended several of the poker tournaments, and Burns, 65, was later indicted. The trial was brought to court, and Burns, a lawyer, put forth that he had researched the subject and deemed that, under Pennsylvania law, Poker is a game of skill rather then chance, and should not be subject to gambling laws.

Unfortunately for him, the jury did not agree. Five women and seven men, after several hours of discussion, found Burns guilty. His crimes "were allowing people to assemble to gamble, inviting others to gamble, and allowing gambling on a premises under his control."

Burns had argued that poker was a game of skill, being that a player can control his or her outcome. His claims included that an experienced player would regularly beat a novice, that as players learn strategy and technique, they become better players, and dutifully compared poker to chess. The defense also brought to light the fact that there are many publications and scholarly studies surrounding the subject. Despite a testimony by one Dr. Robert Hannum of the University of Denver, the Jury still sided with Poker as a game of chance and not skill as many would outwardly claim.

It is suggested that this trial may influence the Bill that Senator Menendez had introduced to the Senate, one that would legalize and regulate online poker. One argument that New Jersey Senator would regularly invoke is that poker is based on skill, and not chance. The fact of the matter is that this jury is far from a team of experts, neither in probability nor sociology. For this ruling to carry weight, a panel of professionals should review the case. Burns may be pushing for this fact, as he is appealing the decision to a higher court.

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