The ruling came down from Pennsylvania Judge Thomas A. James Jr. of Columbia County who was presiding over a case where a man was prosecuted for running a low stakes NLHE game out of his garage. Walter Watkins and his girlfriend, Diane Dent, were arrested following an undercover sting operation conducted by Pennsylvania state troopers and were facing 20 charges each for unlawful gambling.
The defense basically held the stance that poker is a skill based game and therefore not illegal under current Pennsylvania gambling statutes. After reviewing an extensive amount of literature covering poker play and strategies that were offered by the defense, the judge came to the same conclusion saying that “it is apparent that skill predominates over chance”.
In a statement given to the Associated Press, Watkins said, “It’s unfortunate we had to go through all this. We were arrested, taken out of our home. Shackled and spent a night in prison. All for playing poker.”
Lobbyists in the poker industry were triumphant over the news as this has been their argument for years. The Executive Director for the Poker Players Alliance, John Pappas, told Poker News Daily that it was clear that the judge understood the game of poker and that the judgment provides a precedent that will be used in future court cases involving poker.