Texas A&M Law Review

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In United States v. DiCristina, the Eastern District of New York ruled that Texas Hold ‘Em poker is game of skill, and thus, not illegal under the federal Illegal Gambling Business Act. In the decision, the court found that the statute’s text and legislative history did not indicate that Congress intended to include Texas Hold ‘Em poker amongst other illegal gambling activities. But most importantly, the Eastern District found that the analytical and psychological elements of the game allow a skilled player to perform better than another. This, the court reasoned, differentiated Texas Hold ‘Em poker from other types of illegal gambling activities.

Though the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately disagreed on statutory interpretation grounds, the Eastern District’s skill analysis still stands and gives credence to the longstanding argument that the game, because it allows skilled players to excel over non-skilled players, sits on its own compared to prohibited gambling activities. In effect, DiCristina laid the foundation and answered one of the last remaining questions keeping Congress from legalizing online Texas Hold ‘Em poker. This Comment will explore various legalization surges throughout America’s history of gambling that ultimately helped push forward new periods of regulation and reform. This Comment will also examine the rise and fall of internet gambling and the current federal laws keeping the once thriving industry from returning. Additionally, this Comment will look at prior conclusions of the skill-versus-chance argument before DiCristina, and the Eastern District’s approach to resolving the skill versus chance issue. Lastly, this Comment will examine recent developments surrounding online Texas Hold’ Em poker that mirror surges of prior periods of reform, and together with DiCristina, urge Congress to use these final strongholds to advance federal legislation allowing for interstate online Texas Hold ‘Em poker.



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