The popularity of Texas Hold’em Poker is growing in Michiana and is apparently pushing the legal limits.
The rules of the game itself are pretty clear, but the legality of the games being played in the community is constantly being questioned.
In Elkhart County, a tournament at the Goshen Moose Lodge allegedly offered a pot in excess of $40,000.
It’s alleged that the sponsors did not have a charitable gaming permit. The incident remains under investigation and criminal charges are possible. This is just one example that comes from the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office.
In Indiana, certain groups can hold a poker tournament in the name of charity, so long as they fill out the proper paperwork and receive the state’s permission. Card players can also play legally on one of Indiana’s riverboat casinos.
Beyond that, there are certain risks associated with playing the game in public and a certain level of confusion as to exactly what can and can’t be done.
The prosecutor’s office is also concerned about a Texas Hold’em tournament on tap for next month being sponsored by The Bear radio station (WRBR).
WRBR operations manager Ron Stryker said, “The concern is obvious, will people be gambling? Not from our perspective. Our perspective is just fun, whoever wins the table wins the table, no money changing hands just chips.”
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill said, “Amongst the calls we had is a call from an individual outside the community wanted to talk about establishing a Texas Hold-em type of format on a regular basis, a for profit operation and was suggesting that the game would not be gambling because poker is not a game of chance, but was a game of skill.”
The prosecutor responded that if the man wanted to put that theory to the test and open a poker parlor with Ingatbola88, the prosecutor would use his skills to bring the case to court for possible criminal charges.
LINCOLN PARK BRIBERY CASE
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Lawyers in the Lincoln Park bribery conspiracy trial said during opening statements Monday that the case hinged on whether jurors believe gambling executives intended to pay a bribe or a bonus to the law firm of former House Speaker John Harwood.
On the first day of the trial for former Lincoln Park chief executive Daniel Bucci and Nigel Potter, who was a top executive with the park’s London-based parent company Wembley PLC, a federal prosecutor said he would prove the men concocted a $4 million bribery scheme in a bid to expand the gambling facility and dog track.
“The motive? Money,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Moore said.
Defense lawyers argued that nothing illegal took place. In fact, they said, the proposed payments to the McKinnon & Harwood law firm were never made.
Potter, Bucci and Lincoln Park have pleaded innocent to the charges, including wire fraud and conspiracy, outlined in a 15-count indictment. Neither Harwood, a Democrat, nor his law firm were charged.
Federal prosecutors say Bucci and Potter conspired to pay up to $4 million over five years to Harwood’s Pawtucket law firm in exchange for political support to add video lottery machines at the park, and to block state approval of a casino proposed by the Narragansett Indians.
Potter’s lawyer, Leonard C. O’Brien, and the lawyer representing Lincoln Park said the proposed payments were meant as a thank you to Daniel McKinnon, Harwood’s partner who had represented Lincoln Park for nearly a decade.
“Claims (of bribery) are simply mistaken,” O’Brien said. “Nothing nefarious happened here.”
The lawyers said Harwood was not involved, and avoided involvement in legislation affecting the track or the gambling industry.
The defense lawyers described McKinnon as “extremely valuable” to the park and said the bonus was discussed openly at Wembley PLC board meetings.
“The McKinnon issue was discussed up, down and sideways,” O’Brien said. “There were no secrets about this.”
The defense lawyers also said their clients consulted outside lawyers and gambling experts on the legality of a bonus payment.
Moore told jurors not to buy the defense’s assertion the proposed payments were a bonus, incentive, retainer, or “even an expression of gratitude.”
The payments were part of “a scheme or plan to defraud the public of honest services of a public official,” he said.
Moore said it didn’t matter whether anyone accepted the bribes, only that Lincoln Park and its executives concocted the scheme, which was allegedly conceived in 2000 and 2001, when Harwood was House speaker.
The indictment claims the defendants wanted Harwood and other public officials to influence the state Lottery Commission to approve additional video lottery terminals at Lincoln Park. The machines are similar to slot machines but make their payouts in paper receipts rather than coins.
Prosecutors have said Bucci told a Wembley official in 2001 that McKinnon had said he was “sincerely touched by the offer,” but “could not accept a multiyear arrangement.”
Tarantino said McKinnon didn’t accept the proposal because he thought it would be seen by the public as an excessive sum and bad publicity for the firm.
“He did not believe anything improper was suggested,” he said.
But Francis “Skip” Sherman, a former chief executive for Wembley’s U.S. subsidiary, testified on Monday that he told Potter and Bucci “any proposed payment would be improper or illegal.”
Sherman was the government’s first witness and was to be cross-examined by the defense on Tuesday.