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A growing number of US states and EU countries are classifying poker as a game of skill. Almost always prompted by a court case in which poker players are accused of engaging in illegal gambling. The most recent successful defense of such a case has come in Sweden, where a judge has sided with the evidence and classed poker a game of skill.

A group of men who had been engaged in a 700-strong poker tournament in Grebbestad were arrested and charged with “serious illegal gambling”. All gambling activities in Sweden are controlled by a state-run monopoly called ‘Casino Cosmopol’. Any privately run gambling is strictly illegal and those involved can expect to face fines and even jail time.

The case was brought before the Court of Appeal for Western Sweden where it was argued that Texas Hold ‘em poker was a game of skill. The evidence was accepted and the sentences reduced. The pair accused of “serious illegal gambling” now need only worry about “illegal gambling” charges, and two other men had their fines reduced from 80 days wages to 60 days wages.

The Casino Cosmopol director, Hakan Hallstedt was understandably perturbed by the news, challenging poker’s status as a skill game. “We still want to see illegal gamblers go to jail. Other countries see poker as a game of chance.” He also announced the groups intention to appeal the ruling and move the case to the Swedish Supreme Court.

The state-run gaming monopoly look to be fighting a losing battle, this latest set back coming after condemnation from the European Commission. Several industry groups have accused Sweden of blocking online gambling sites from operating within their borders, actions they say infringe upon EU free trade laws. The weight of Brussels appears to be behind them, with some experts predicting the proliferation of legal online gambling in Sweden as early as 2010.

Legal private poker tournaments in the country have certainly taken a big step forward. Rumors are already circulating that new events have begun to pop up around the country. Poker advocates will be hoping that more legislative powers around the world see the light and redefine poker as a game of skill.