In an interview with Yahoo Finance, billionaire casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson has stated that poker is gambling. Adelson is known as one of the worst enemies of online gambling, thus this statement of his doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

The casino boss, who is 83 years old, has tried to challenge the claim that poker is a game of skill. Namely, according to his opinion, even though skill does play a role in poker, the game is still largely random; thus, he considers it to be gambling.

Adelson said that he couldn’t understand how skill could apply to poker when the action included shuffling a deck of cards and giving random cards to players. As he stated: “You don’t have any control over it.” He did agree that bluffing and placing bets are things that can help a player have a better performance. However, he pointed out that they didn’t make poker a game of skill.

It should be noted that the discussion came up after the tycoon was asked about his stance on daily fantasy sports and state gambling regulations. It turned out that, according to him, daily fantasy sports is also a type of gambling.

Under the law in some states, both poker and daily fantasy sports are considered gambling. However, there have been attempts to change this.

For example, such an effort was seen very recently in Nebraska and in Maryland. In contrast to the first attempt, which was unsuccessful, in Maryland organising home poker games was framed as social gambling; however, in order for this rule to apply, players taking part in the action must share a preexisting social relationship.

Interestingly, Matt King, CFO of FanDuel a major daily fantasy sports operator, agrees with Adelson that poker isn’t a game of skill. However, his view on daily fantasy sports is that DFS was “truly a game of skill.”

Naturally, experienced poker players would strongly disagree with them both. Poker is a game whose results are calculated on the long-run rather than focusing on single sessions. According to Card Player, a federal judge ruled that poker is a game of skill in 2012 – noting that, “the most skillful [poker] professionals earn the same celestial salaries as professional ballplayers.” History has yet to reveal a professional gambler, using games of chance, to earn a living – except in blackjack play, which opens up another question altogether. If card counting were allowed in Adelson’s casinos, would he consider blackjack a game of skill or chance?


Additional reporting by Lars Jones