- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Texas Hold ‘em poker is no different than golf under Idaho law, a tribe contends in documents submitted after the state filed a lawsuit in federal court against the tribe after the tribe opened a poker room in its casino.

In its response to the lawsuit, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe said poker, like golf, is a game of skill in which players can pay fees to enter tournaments and win prizes based on how well they do.

The Spokesman-Review reported Tuesday that the state of Idaho sued the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in federal court on May 2, after the tribe opened the poker room at its casino near Worley. The state contends that poker is illegal in Idaho, prohibited both by the state Constitution and law.

But the tribe says Texas Hold ‘em tournament play is legal and widely played in Idaho.

“As long as the state permits a single person, organization or entity to operate a game at any location in the state, whether for charity purposes or otherwise, the tribe is entitled to operate such games in its gaming facility,” the tribe argued in its response to the lawsuit. The tribe pointed to charity events, merchant promotional contests and even an Idaho State Lottery scratch ticket game called “Idahold’em” that the state launched in 2007.

The tribe also submitted a May 15 decision from an Idaho magistrate court judge in Ada County in which he dismissed the charges against two men who were charged with illegal gambling for playing Texas Hold ‘em.

“It is a very perplexing picture of sometimes you can play Texas Hold Em, and sometimes you cannot,” Magistrate Judge James Cawthon wrote. “The state cannot explain with any clarity when you can and when you cannot, or how one would know when you could or when you could not.”

Attorney Michael Bartlett, who represented the two men, brought in national experts who testified that Texas Hold ‘em is a game of skill. He pointed to pool tournaments, bass fishing tournaments, rodeos and golf tournaments as comparable situations in which people pay to enter tournaments testing their skills - with some element of chance also involved - and win prizes based on how they perform.

The state’s request for a restraining order to shut down the tribe’s poker room is scheduled for a hearing in federal court in Coeur d’Alene on June 3.

The tribe also argued that the state’s lawsuit should be dismissed because it violates the state-tribal gambling compact by sidestepping an arbitration process in favor of litigation.

The state had no comment on the latest court filings.


Information from: The Spokesman-Review, https://www.spokesman.com

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