The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) has filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of PokerStars in an effort to clarify poker as a game of skill, attempting to protect the legal rights of players in the ongoing battle with the Department of Justice.
Although not a party to the case, the PPA is asking Judge Sand to listen to its argument by filing an amicus curiae brief, which is sometimes done in lawsuits when a non-party to the case feels that its input can help to clarify or shed light on certain matters at issue in the case, which can help the judge in his rulings. In filing the brief in USA v. PokerStars, et al., the main lobbying organization on behalf of poker players is seeking to get involved by its argument that poker is predominantly a game of skill.
The skill-based argument is indeed a worthwhile issue that can be a factor in certain laws that find games of chance to be illegal. However, the majority of the allegations in the current case are centered around fraud and money laundering charges, so the relevance of poker as skill being vital to the issue may not be germane in this case. It is up to the discretion of Judge Sand as to whether or not he will allow the filing to act as a “friend of the court.”
The brief was filed by Kenneth Dreifach, a New York lawyer with ZwillGen PLLC. Dreifach informed the court that he had discussed his intention of filing the brief with attorneys for PokerStars, Absolute Poker and Full Tilt, as well as the lawyers for FTP board members Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson. None of the attorneys consulted objected to the PPA participating in the case. In fact, both Full Tilt and PokerStars have donated huge sums of money to the PPA in the past.
Some players questioned the involvement of the PPA on public online poker forums, thinking that it might get in the way of players from Full Tilt and Absolute Poker eventually being reimbursed.
“There is no way in which the filing of this brief could interfere with the FTP situation and the effort to get players repaid,” said Patrick W. Fleming, the director of PPA’s Litigation Support Network, on TwoPlusTwo. “The PPA has been fighting for precisely that and has been in communication with the DOJ regarding future player repayment. Nothing in the PPA brief attempts to help Bitar, Burtnick, FTP or anyone or anything else with respect to the claim that they stole or defrauded players of their money and are obligated to pay it back.”
It is not known at this time when Judge Sand may offer a ruling on allowing the PPA’s involvement.