Another Poker Avenue Closed Off
When I finally land that high-paying, perk-laden, full-time job (hopefully sooner than later) I do plan on playing poker again. I like the game, I win more than I lose, what's not to like. I plan to play online, but I also planned on occasionally playing in the many charity tournaments that have recently sprung up around Pittsburgh. I mentioned these tournaments a few posts ago, and I mentioned that, while they are technically illegal (well, it's not even technical--they ARE illegal) the law-enforcement community has taken a rather relaxed view of the whole thing. To the point where a local Fraternal Order of Police chapter sponsored a fund-raising event.
Well, it seems those crazy, madcap days are over. Last night our local ABC affiliate broadcast a story about these touraments, and interviewed a police official from Butler County (north of me) who said that these tournaments have become so widespread and so widely advertised that they are going to address them. Meaning, they're going to start shutting them down.
The story didn't mention the organizations I receive emails from, but today I did get an email that was titled "Tournaments Cancelled", and was told that, because of the recent media attention, they had to cancel the 2 events they had planned--along with all other events on their schedule. Their website has been shut down, and until further notice they will not be hosting any more games.
I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, the law is the law. The cops exercised a fair amount of self-restraint, but just because I like poker and lots of people like poker is no reason that a law prohibiting poker should be flaunted. And flaunted it was--a local volunteer fire company posted "Texas Hold-Em Poker Saturday Night!" on it's outdoor sign. And there were a lot of strictly cash-games going on during these events, low-limit stuff to be sure, but I don't think the players were tithing a percentage of their winnings to the charity.
On the other hand, these tournaments were so popular as fund-raisers because, well, they raised a lot of funds. According to the TV news piece poker tournaments have quickly superceded bingo and raffles for non-profits looking to raise some cash. Everyone wins--players get their poker fix, organizations get their coffers filled.
But, in the end, I have to side with the cops on this one. Like I said, the law is the law. The thing is, laws can be changed, and maybe this belated crackdown is just what the doctor ordered for those of us itching to play poker legally in the Keystone State. A lot of people have played in these tournaments and enjoyed themselves. A large number of organizations have sponsored them and raked in more money than they could any other way. There are now far more people interested in poker (and the money that interest generates) than ever before. Pennsylvania just legalized slot machines, in large part because the state desperately needs new sources of revenue (actually, that's about the ONLY part), so might the powers that be see legalizing poker as a natural and logical progession?
But what can I do about it? That's what I was thinking just now. I like poker, I think that in a free society poker should be totally legal (as it is in so many places across the country), so what can I, Mean Gene, do to bring this about?
The first thing I thought was to write to my state representative. Uh, maybe not a good idea. My state rep (a gentleman named Jeff Habay) is having a wee bit of legal problems. To wit, quoting from a recent Post-Gazette story:
"The end of the audit doesn't mean the end of Habay's legal problems. In a separate case, he has been charged with two counts of theft of services, and is accused of repeatedly using his legislative staff for re-election campaign work.
Last month, Habay waived his right to a preliminary hearing in that case, meaning it could go to trial.
Prior to that, Habay was ordered by the State Ethics Commission to pay a $13,000 fine for having his office staff campaign on state time, then lying about it. That violates state ethics rules."
So I don't think now is a good time to be asking Jeff to take a stand on a controversial legislative issue. Before Election Day I went to a Pancake Breakfast at our local middle school, and usually you see the local politicos hobnobbing and pressing the flesh (in fact, last year I accidently shouldered aside Mike Fisher, the Republican candidate for governor. Sorry, Mike). Pursuant to Habay's legal problems, my friend Matt (whose father is a bigwig in the Kiwanis Club and can get you all the syrup you need at these functions) wondered aloud if our representative would be attending.
"Maybe wearing a monitoring bracelet on his ankle," I said, uncharitably.
In the end, he wasn't there, at least not while I was. But I will not go so softly into that good night. I will do what I can to fight the good fight and see what small part I can play in legalizing the great American game of poker legalized here in the great state of Pennsylvania. Of course, with our Legislature, poker will be legal here in, oh, 117 years.