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Tournament poker deemed a gamble

A High Court verdict deeming Tournament Poker as gambling is likely to have an impact on the way the game is advertised and how people play.

Presiding Judge Ron Young said in his judgment on November 17 that the entry fee charged for the Tournament was “indirectly staked on the outcome of the poker game, trying to win money in a game, depending partially on chance.”

The Gambling Act 2003 (Section 4) defined this aspect, he said.

The case related to the advertising campaign of Asian Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) on TV3 and C4.

The Internal Affairs Department had earlier taken Media Works (which owns the two television channels) to court saying that advertising the Tour was a breach of the Gambling Act.

According to Section 16 of the Act, it was illegal to advertise overseas gambling and the Department had petitioned saying that the TV advertising breached the law through promotion of the APPT in advertisements.

The District Court had ruled that Tournament Poker was not gambling as defined in the Act, saying, “Advertising for APPT was not publicising or promoting gambling.”

On appeal, Justice Young overruled the District Court’s decision.

Judge Young said that although some contestants qualified to play by skill rather than on payment of an entry fee, any such payment made would mean gambling.

“The tournament entrance fee was indirectly staked on the outcome of the poker game trying to win money in a game depending partially on chance, the definition of gambling as per the Act.

“Thus, what is advertised is still gambling even if not all contests are gambling,” he said.

Defending its case, Media Works had said that the participants were playing for a “prize” and hence were not involved in gambling.

Justice Young referred the matter back to the District Court, adding that the legislation was ambiguous.

Internal Affairs Director of Gambling Compliance Mike Hill described the High Court verdict as “very important” for regulating gambling in New Zealand.

“It provides useful guidance for the Department in carrying out its responsibilities, particularly when the earlier decision was highlighted by Internet gambling sites as indicating that New Zealand had figured out what constituted legal or illegal gambling,” he said.

According to Mr Hill, if the earlier decision had remained unchallenged, there would have been a loophole in regulating poker in New Zealand.

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