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9th Circuit rules against CdA Tribe in Texas Hold ‘Em poker case

The 9th Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals has ruled against the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s bid to offer Texas Hold ‘Em poker at its reservation casino in Worley, finding that poker is “explicitly prohibited by Idaho law.” The tribe contended that Texas Hold ‘Em is a game of skill, not just chance, so should be allowed under Idaho’s Constitution. It also argued that Texas Hold ‘Em is widely played already around Idaho, from charity events to big tournaments.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a preliminary injunction against the poker games at the Coeur d’Alene Casino in September; the tribe appealed to the 9th Circuit. Today, the appeals court sided with Winmill.

“The Tribe’s interpretations of Idaho law are not persuasive,” wrote 9th Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel. “Though skill undoubtedly plays a role in Hold’em, the game does not qualify for the statutory exemption for bona fide contests of skill, speed, strength or endurance. A contrary reading would impermissibly place the statute in conflict with the constitution’s prohibition on poker.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and read the 9th Circuit decision here.

Chief Allan, chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, issued this statement in response to the ruling:

“We are, of course, disappointed with the decision issued today by the 9th Circuit concerning the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s right to offer Texas Hold’em. Ironically, the very provision of the Idaho Constitution the State argued should be strictly interpreted to oppose the expansion of gaming, is overlooked by the state in the governor’s efforts to expand casino gaming at horse and dog tracks around Idaho.” 

Tribe plans emergency appeal, says court may have misunderstood about arbitration process

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe says it will immediately file a motion to stay Judge Lynn Winmill’s ruling today granting an injunction ordering the tribe to shut down the poker room at its Worley casino, and will file an emergency appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. “We still believe that we have valid legal arguments under federal law for offering poker at our casino and the court’s decision did not fully consider some of those arguments,” said tribal attorney Eric Van Orden.

Helo Hancock, tribal legislative affairs director, said the tribe didn’t decide against arbitration and didn’t want to litigate the issue. “It appears there may be a misunderstanding by the court,” he said. “Because our compact is clear that it is the aggrieved party that is supposed to file or provide notice of their intent to arbitrate. And we’re not the aggrieved party. We don’t think we’re doing anything wrong. We think we’re well within our rights. It was the state who sued us, and accordingly it would be the state’s responsibility as the aggrieved party to file notice of their intent to arbitrate. That really isn’t on the tribe.”

Hancock said that issue will be addressed in the motions the tribe will file today both with the U.S. District Court and the 9th Circuit. “They’re being drafted now,” he said. Casino officials are awaiting advice from counsel on whether the poker room will stay open or not as the emergency appeal is filed.

Chief Allan, tribal chairman, said, “Obviously, we’re very disappointed in Judge Winmill’s decision. Poker is so widely played across the state by so many different people and organizations that it sounds ridiculous to say that everyone playing poker in the State of Idaho is breaking the law, but that is what this decision says.”

Judge orders shutdown of CdA Tribe’s poker tournaments at casino

U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill issued an injunction today ordering a halt to “Texas Hold ‘Em” poker tournaments at the Coeur d’Alene Casino at Worley, saying the tourneys violate Idaho’s ban on poker; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. The tribe argued that its tournaments are a game of skill, not chance, and that they don’t fit under the ban. In June, Winmill rejected the state’s bid for an injunction, instead calling for the state and tribe to go to arbitration over the issue, as provided for in their state-tribal gaming compact.

However, the judge wrote in his ruling today, “The Tribe changed its mind and decided it would prefer to litigate.” So Winmill considered the pending motions in the case – the tribe’s motion to dismiss the state’s lawsuit, and the state’s motion for an injunction shutting down the poker games. He rejected the tribe’s motion and granted the state’s.

“The Tribe believes it has the right to offer the poker tournaments and apparently will continue to do so absent an injunction,” Winmill wrote. “These poker tournaments violate Idaho gambling law. The upshot is that unless an injunction issues, the State will be left without any effective remedy.”

The tribe started offering the tournaments in May, prompting the state to file the lawsuit. The judge wrote that the lawsuit can go forward and the injunction will remain in place “until such time as this matter is heard and decided on the merits.” You can read the judge’s 24-page decision here. Winmill found that the state "will almost certainly succeed on the merits of its claims," and held that chance is a key part of poker.

Gov. Butch Otter welcomed the ruling. “I appreciate the initial determination that the Coeur d’Alenes’ decision to conduct Texas Hold ’em games violates state law and the Idaho Constitution,” Otter said in a statement. “The Legislature and the people of Idaho have made it clear what kind of gambling they will accept. That does not include poker. And no matter how much the Tribe insists otherwise, Texas Hold ’em is poker.”

Judge hears arguments in tribal poker case

U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill heard from both the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the state of Idaho today in the state’s bid to shut down the tribe’s poker room at its Worley casino, but issued no immediate ruling. The federal judge is considering motions from the state for a temporary restraining order to halt the poker play and for injunctive action to block it in the future; and from the tribe to dismiss the state’s lawsuit.

The state contends that all poker is banned in Idaho, both in the Constitution and by state law. But the tribe argues that the type of poker it’s offering – Texas Hold ‘Em tournament play – falls under a legal definition for games of skill, not illegal gambling. That would mean if anyone else in the state is authorized to offer it, the tribe could too, under its gaming compact with the state. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com; the poker room at the Coeur d’Alene Casino opened May 2, and tribal officials said it’s proven popular.

State reply to tribe: Golf tourneys ‘bear no resemblance to poker,’ and Texas Hold ‘Em illegal even if others in state play it

The state of Idaho has filed its reply as its lawsuit against the Coeur d’Alene Tribe over the new poker room at the tribe’s Worley casino heads to a court hearing next week. In the latest filing, the state argues that events like golf tournaments “bear no resemblance to poker where chance is an essentially element of the game.” The tribe is arguing that the type of poker it’s offering, Texas Hold ‘Em tournament play, qualifies as a contest of skill – like a golf tournament – bringing it under an exemption in Idaho’s anti-gambling laws. Even though Idaho bans poker, the tribe argues, that prohibition doesn't apply if the game in question is one of skill, not just luck.

In its reply, the state argues that “any variant of ‘poker’ is plausibly, indeed necessarily, encompassed.” It also argues that the binding arbitration clause of the state-tribal gaming compact doesn’t foreclose it from filing this lawsuit, and discounts the tribe’s contention that Texas Hold ‘Em is widely played in Idaho.  “The fact that the law is violated commonly … does not eliminate the illegality,” the state’s attorneys write. “Were the contrary true, speed limits would become legal fictions.” You can read the state reply here. U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill will hear arguments in the case Tuesday in Coeur d’Alene, on the state’s motion for a temporary restraining order to shut the poker room down.

CdA Tribe’s response to state lawsuit: Legally, Texas Hold ‘Em poker is like golf

Texas Hold ‘Em poker is no different than golf under Idaho law, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe argues in its response to a lawsuit from the state – it’s a game of skill, in which players can pay fees to enter tournaments and win prizes for how well they do. “As the statute provides, even if the game of poker is prohibited, that prohibition does not apply if the game can be shown to be a ‘contest of skill,’” the tribe wrote in legal arguments submitted in court Friday; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

The state of Idaho sued the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in federal court on May 2, after the tribe opened a poker room at its Coeur d’Alene Casino in Worley. The state argued that poker is flat illegal in Idaho, prohibited both by the state Constitution and law. But the tribe said the type of poker it’s offering – Texas Hold ‘Em tournament play – is legal, and is widely played in Idaho. That makes it a type of Class II gaming, not Class III, under federal law, the tribe argues, so if anyone else can offer it in the state, tribes legally can, too.

Tribal officials say they first learned of state’s lawsuit against them from this blog

Coeur d’Alene Tribe officials said late this afternoon that the state never told them it was filing a lawsuit against the tribe, and they've not yet been served with the suit. “We found out from your blog,” tribal legislative liaison Helo Hancock said. “It’s frustrating to have to learn in that manner. This lawsuit is completely unnecessary.”

Tribal Chairman Chief Allan said, “We believe we are well within our right to offer poker. If the state has a problem with our legal analyses, they can invoke dispute resolution under our gaming compact – that’s why we have it – so we can negotiate our differences in a professional setting.” You can read my updated full story here at spokesman.com.

Hancock said, “We thought we were going to discuss this on a government-to-government basis as the compact contemplates, sit down. There’s obviously a legal disagreement here, and I think it’s something clearly reasonable minds could disagree on. We think the state statute has a clear exemption for contests of skill. And anybody who’s ever played poker knows that it’s not just a game of chance – people who are good at poker consistently win at poker. It’s kind of like golf. And certainly there are elements of chance in a lot of things, but this we believe is a contest of skills – courts around the country have been finding that.”

Hancock added, “We were in agreement to go through the dispute resolution process.” The tribe had just sent a letter to state Lottery Director Jeff Anderson today saying it would agree to an expedited process dispute-resolution process and binding arbitration, and proposing a meeting on May 9. Said Hancock, “It’s frustrating to see the state jump the gun on this.” The tribe issued a full statement on the lawsuit early this evening; you can read it here.

Tribe: State misunderstands its plans for limited poker tournament play

Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman Chief Allan, in an April 28 letter to state Lottery Commission Director Jeff Anderson, said the state’s objections the tribe’s plans to offer poker games at its Coeur d’Alene Casino appear to stem from “a misunderstanding of both the games that the Tribe plans to offer and the Tribe’s federal rights under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”

Wrote Allan, “The Tribe’s Gaming Board has taken a very conservative approach and has authorized only a limited type of poker tournament.”

He noted, “There is no question that such tournaments are conducted at many locations throughout the State. … We believe that the State’s concerns will be resolved once it understands the limited nature of the poker tournaments to be offered by the Tribe and the legal authority for such tournaments.”

Plus, Allan added that the tribe would like to discuss with the Lottery Commission the implications of the passage of legislation this year authorizing betting on slot-machine-like “instant racing” machines at several locations in the state, including the Greyhound Park in Post Falls. Years ago, the tribe sought to operate a casino there, but backed off after then-Gov. Phil Batt objected. Allan wrote that this year’s legislation will “dramatically expand gaming in Idaho.”

State: Tribe’s ‘newly discovered’ idea that it can offer poker just about money

In its memorandum supporting its motion for a temporary restraining order to halt the Coeur d’Alene Casino’s new poker games, the state of Idaho argues that poker has never been allowed under its gaming compact with the tribe, and the tribe is now citing new interpretations of clauses having to do with games of skill and tournaments.

“The compact has existed for over 21 years, and yet the Tribe waited 20 years before ever suggesting that poker was a permissible form of gaming,” the state’s lawyers wrote. “This newly-discovered gaming entitlement has as its roots not a change in the law but the Tribe’s pursuit of revenue. Idaho does not begrudge the Tribe’s attempting to maximize the Casino’s economic benefit; it does object to any gaming activity that violates the Compact. … Parties to contracts ought honor their promises and adhere to the law.” You can read the state’s 18-page memorandum here.

The Coeur d’Alene Casino’s poker room is now open daily from 11 a.m. to close. “Our Poker Room is the newest addition to our world class gaming experience, located in the Red Tail Bar and Grill,” the Casino says on its website. “Come enjoy live action Poker with a wide betting range to suit your choice of game and experience.” Tribal officials were not immediately available for comment; it's not clear if they've been served with the lawsuit yet.

Idaho sues CdA Tribe in federal court over casino poker games

The state of Idaho has sued the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in U.S. District Court to block the tribe’s launch of poker games today at the Coeur d’Alene Casino. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and Attorney General Wasden filed the lawsuit, saying Idaho bans poker and the tribe’s move would violate its gaming compact with the state.

“Article III Section 20 of the Idaho Constitution is clear, and it’s my duty to enforce and defend the Constitution and the laws of Idaho,” Otter said. “Despite discussions with tribal leaders and our best efforts at avoiding this situation, we have no choice but to act. I will continue working with the Attorney General to uphold our laws and resolve this issue.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Tribal casino’s plan to offer poker draws legal objections from state

The Coeur d’Alene Casino in Worley, operated by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, is advertising a May 2 opening date for its new poker room, saying Idaho’s constitutional ban on poker games doesn’t apply to the tribal-owned casino. The tribe plans to offer Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha games; poker is widely offered at commercial card rooms across the North Idaho state line in Washington and at tribal casinos in that state. But the Idaho Lottery Commission is objecting, and has requested a review from the National Indian Gaming Commission. “Poker is specifically prohibited in Idaho,” said Jeff Anderson, lottery commission director. You can read our full story here by S-R reporter Becky Kramer.

LCHS Grad Making It In Poker World

Kevin MacPhee, a 1998 Lake City High School grad and Coeur d'Alene native, has spent the past several years traveling the world playing in high-stakes poker tournaments. MacPhee, 32, won a million euros as the 2010 Berlin tournament champion on the European Poker Tour. He has cashed-in at numerous EPT tournaments and is ranked fourth on the EPT all-time leader board. "I've been living out of my suitcase for five years, which has been awesome," he said. "All of my stuff has been in a storage unit in Coeur d'Alene." Along the way, he has found his dream girl, a model and poker celebrity in Europe, Liv Boeree, his current girlfriend. Along with being beautiful and having a British accent, she plays heavy metal guitar and studied physics with astrophysics at the University of Manchester. They have been traveling the world together/David Cole, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (Courtesy photo: Kevin MacPhee and girlfriend Liv Boeree)

Question: Would you like to trade places with Kevin MacPhee?

Elderly women face gambling charges

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus police have summoned a 98-year-old and about 40 other elderly women to court to face gambling charges after raiding their weekly poker party.

The women, mostly in their 70s, were stunned to receive a court summons this week, more than two years since the raid, said Yioula Diakantoni, the daughter of the 98-year-old.

The women had gathered at a home in November 2009 for a four-hour simplified poker-and-bridge afternoon over sandwiches and pastries when police arrived, she said Thursday.

"They were playing with only very small sums of money, just to make it interesting," Diakantoni said. "It's silly for police to concern themselves with such trivial games when there are more serious things they should pursue."

She said some women were frightened at the police raid in the coastal town of Limassol and attempted to flee. Others didn't realize what was going on — including one woman who asked police to wait until she had finished playing her hand.

Diakantoni said two of the women have since died and another two are in a nursing home. Her mother, Eftychia Yiasemidou, was reluctant to go to court but will if her doctor approves it. Most of the women are simply amused by the affair, she added.

"My mother has never done anyone harm and we hope she continues playing because it keeps her mind sharp," she said.

Gambling in Cyprus punishable by up to six months in jail or a €750 ($1,000) fine.

Prosecutor Michalis Themistocleous said the summons was procedural but added the attorney general was looking at whether to proceed.

Judge’s son suspected in casino heist

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The bankrupt son of a Las Vegas judge followed a crude holdup at a posh casino by racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling losses and spending a week like a high roller, but got caught after trying to hawk his stolen chips online to poker players, police said Thursday.

 An arrest report for the helmeted bandit, who ran out of the Bellagio hotel-casino with $1.5 million in chips during a gunpoint heist Dec. 14, said Anthony M. Carleo (pictured) lost about $105,000 at the resort over the next month — including $73,000 on New Year's Eve. He stayed at least one week at the resort in late January, enjoying meals, drinks and rooms furnished by the casino.

"He likes to gamble," Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Steiber said as he described for reporters how Carleo, 29, was nabbed late Wednesday on the same casino floor from where the chips came.

Carleo wasn't armed and offered no resistance when he was taken into custody.

 Police recovered $900,000 in chips of different types — the ones stolen ranged from $100 to $25,000 — and can account for $1.2 million, Steiber said.

Read the rest of the story by Associated Press writer Oskar Garcia by clicking the link below.

Online poker and betting: High Court doubles down

Mike Poppke and his “poker-playing  buddy” Prince, a Malamute/Husky mix, attend a Poker Player Alliance rally on the steps of the state Capitol Thursday.

OLYMPIA – The Washington Supreme Court was asked to decide Thursday whether Internet poker is merely a 21st Century twist on a friendly game played at the kitchen table or “the crack cocaine of gambling.”

Online gambling is illegal in Washington, and should remain that way, assistant attorney general Jerry Ackerman said, because it can’t be regulated and monitored like casino gambling. Internet sites can’t prevent minors from playing, or cut off compulsive gamblers, he said.

But Lee Rousso, who is challenging the law, said the ban is “illegally protectionist” because it helps local gambling operations by banning out-of-state or out-of-country operations. Internet gambling sites are regulated, just not by the state, he said.

The justices seemed skeptical of the legal distinction the state makes between games played in a casino or licensed card room, and on the Internet.

For more on this story, go inside the blog

Poker players raise stakes in Internet gaming fight

Members of the Poker Players Alliance gather on the steps of the Capitol Thursday morning after the Supreme Court hears arguments on a state law that bans Internet gambling.

OLYMPIA — Members of the Poker Players Alliance gathered on the Capitol steps today after arguing the state Supreme Court should strike down the state’s law against online poker.

The state allows people to go to casinos to play poker, but won’t let them play it online in their home, they said. It’s a way of protecting local gambling operations to the detriment of out-of-state and out-of-country gambling operations. That’s a violation of the interstate commerce laws, they contend.

Phil Gordon of Newport, a professional poker player, said it’s ridiculous that he has to leave his home and drive down the road about 200 yards to Idaho to play poker online on his cellphone.

It’s a contemptible law, said former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, chairman of the alliance. And he was speaking assomething of an expert, having voted for some contemptible laws while in Congress.

Not so, says the state. Poker is illegal unless it’s played in a state-regulated facility and there’s no way to regulate Internet gambling sites on such places as the Isle of Man, an island off Great Britain where many are located.

It’s harder to restrict minors and compulsive gamblers from Internet gambling, assistant attorney general  Gerry Ackerman said. “Internet gambling is the crack cocaine of gambling.”

More on the argument and rally this eveing on line and in Friday’s print edition.

Youngster Wins World Series of Poker

Dan Torpey chuckles with friends around a poker table at Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights.

“Joe Cada is on top of the poker world. Tuesday morning, the 21-year-old from Chesterfield Township became the youngest player to win the World Series of Poker Main Event in its 40-year history. After 88 hands and nearly 3 ½ hours of heads-up play in Las Vegas, the $8.5 million first-place prize that was neatly stacked on the table belonged to Cada.”


Do you play poker?