Defense attorney Robert Jessee argued this week that cockfighting is a sport, similar to professional boxing, and not subject to Tennessee's gaming laws.
But U.S. Magistrate Dennis Inman ruled Thursday that pitting roosters in a wagered fight to the death is defined specifically in Tennessee law as a form of gambling.
That decision affects Kenneth R. Frazier, 64; his brother Allen Eugene Frazier, 60; George Ray Hicks, 69; Ernest Arrowood Jr., 67, and James William Russell, whose age was unavailable.
The five are scheduled to stand trial in June on charges of conducting an illegal gambling business and sponsoring or exhibiting gamecocks in an animal-fighting venture at the 440 Cockfight Pit near Newport. The first offense carries up to five years in prison, while the second charge is a misdemeanor.