This case concerns the government’s flawed attempt to expand the Illegal Gambling Business Act (“IGBA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1955 (2010), to cover foreign businesses that offered customers the opportunity to play poker against one another, for money, over the Internet. IGBA makes it a federal offense to conduct a “gambling business which . . . is a violation of the law of a State or political subdivision in which it is conducted,” provided that the business satisfies certain jurisdictional prerequisites. See 18 U.S.C. § 1955(b)(1). While IGBA includes a
definition of gambling, that definition never mentions poker, or any game similar to poker. Id. §1955(b)(2). Furthermore, nothing in the text or history of IGBA suggests that Congress intended
for it to apply expansively to the conduct of overseas businesses whose activity is entirely legal where it is undertaken. Nevertheless, the government argues that IGBA has been violated because the defendants’ conduct allegedly violates New York Penal Law §§ 225.00, 225.05. Like IGBA itself, however, New York’s ambiguous gambling proscriptions do not reach the conduct alleged
in this case because they do not apply to foreign online poker businesses. To read either IGBA or the New York Penal Law as outlawing businesses like those at issue here would require this
Court to interpret the statutes so broadly that they would violate the rule of lenity and become void for vagueness.
Accordingly, Counts Five, Six and Seven of the Indictment, which charge that Chad Elie violated or abetted violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1955, must be dismissed. Count Nine of the Indictment, which asserts money laundering violations predicated on the same illegal gambling offenses, must likewise be dismissed.
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