Police poker popped

Like many other Americans, police in Virginia Beach like playing poker. For almost a year, they’ve been holding a monthly Texas Hold’em tournament in the Fraternal Order of Police lodge. But now, because the tournaments are apparently illegal, they will cease. From HamptonRoads.com:

The game became an issue with the FOP after the state Department of Charitable Gaming determined that the tournament was illegal and reported the matter to city prosecutors.

The gaming commission said the tournament must be shut down, or the FOP would risk losing its license to hold charity bingo and raffle events, said Paul A. Farrell, the police officer who organized the event.

Farrell said the FOP allowed him to use its lodge for the event and provided a lunch buffet for participants.

He said the ruling was a shock to him because he had been assured that the game was legal as long as he did not take a �cut� of the proceeds.

Farrell said all proceeds � generated by a $75 fee charged to each participant � were turned over to the winners of the tournament.

�I thought I was doing everything on the up and up,� he said. �I definitely paid out everything that I took in.�

Cristman said state statutes outlaw all gambling in Virginia, with four exemptions: bingo and raffles held by charitable organizations; the state lottery; off-track parimutuel betting; and games held in private homes.

The FOP game, Cristman said, does not qualify under any of the exemptions.

Poker itself is not outlawed by state statute, he said, but playing it for money anywhere but at a private residence is illegal.

Poker tournament at police lodge declared illegal, canceled

So you can play poker all you want in a private home, but if you do so in a fraternal hall, you’re breaking the law. This makes perfect sense, and is another example of the fractured approach to gaming prohibition that I discuss in Uneasy Convictions.

The thing that struck me was that the whole set-up seemed like something from the movie Rounders. A police-sponsored tournament drawing people from all over (about 150 showed up to the final two games), everyone thinking they’re experts after watching televised poker. Probably the perfect set-up for a skilled professional to make a killing.

When even the police aren’t sure if their gambling is legal, you know that there needs to be some clarification.

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