The case stems from a multi-million-kronor poker tournament involving 700 people which took place in Grebbestad in western Sweden in March 2007.
In April 2008, the Uddevala District Court sentenced two men, ages 35 and 37, to six months and eight months in jail, respectively, and two others, ages 52 and 56, were fined the equivalent of 80 days pay.
In May 2009, the Court of Appeal for Western Sweden reduced the charges and sentences for all four men in a ruling with the main reason for the court’s decision being the fact that the tournament involved the poker game Texas Hold’em.
The 52-year-old and 56-year-old were exonerated completely by the court.
In order to be convicted of serious illegal gambling crimes, it is necessary for the game being played to depend to a substantial degree on chance rather than a player’s skill and it is this issue which will be crucial to the Supreme Court’s decision, and of interest to the Swedish poker community.
The duration of the tournament was a significant factor in the court’s decision, arguing that over the course of several days a player’s skill and judgement was considered to be more important that the cards dealt.
The decision was welcomed by poker players across Sweden who argued that it could lead to a change in the law to allow for professional tournaments to be organised outside of the auspices of the state-owned casinos run by Svenska Spel, the state gaming monopoly.
The Swedish Prosecutor-General (Riksåklagaren – RÅ) appealed the decision to the Supreme Court and the case opens on Tuesday.