Florida Free Poker League Raided By Police



According to reports from Florida, a legally operating free poker league at a local sports bar was raided last weekend under somewhat questionable circumstances.

In a story from the Tampa Bay Times writer Stephanie Wang, Louie’s Grill and Sports Bar in Tampa was the target of a state and local law enforcement raid as a free poker league operated by the Nutz Poker League was holding one of its tournaments on October 20. Approximately 140 players were participating in this tournament at the club when law enforcement arrived. Reports from several of the players indicate that the scale of the raid was a bit over the top.

The undercover investigation, dubbed (and I’m not making this up) “Operation Cracked Aces,” saw officers from the Florida Bureau of Investigation and Largo police enter the establishment in full attack mode and ordering the players in the tournament to keep their hands on the tables they were at. “It was something out of a bad movie, with (the officers wearing) masks and guns out” Wang reports Tom Hood, a player in the tournament, as saying. “They made everyone feel like we were really criminals.” Arrested in the raid were the owner and five employees of the Nutz Poker League, charged with working for a gambling house, and the owner of Louie’s was charged with keeping a gambling house.

The Nutz Poker League has been a popular outlet for poker players in Florida since its inception three years ago. The Nutz Poker League – like many other similar free poker leagues across the United States – are paid by an establishment to come in to operate the free tournaments. For the winners of these tournaments, gift certificates, pre-paid Visa cards or (for larger events) trips to Las Vegas are awarded. It is these prizes that apparently have sparked the interest of Florida’s legal eagles in pushing the investigation, raid and arrests.

Wang quotes Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Joshua Riba as stating that the free leagues do violate the state’s gaming laws. “If they are playing cards, and they have an opportunity to win something of value, then they are technically violating (gambling statutes),” Riba is quoted by Wang. “The statute itself does not require anybody to ante in,” Riba finished, indicating that the operation of free leagues, while not requiring players to put up anything to play, violate the law by offering prizes.

Perhaps at question as well is the reasonings for the free poker leagues to be in operation in the bars, restaurants and clubs in the first place. While not requiring the participants to pay to play poker, the businesses are bringing in these free poker leagues to drive up clientele, with the potential for better sales of food and drinks to boost the business’ profits. This could be construed as a “buy in” of sorts for players participating in the leagues and, as such, could violate the state laws.

Those arrested in the raid were contacted by Wang and, for the most part, were not willing to make statements on their arrests. Louie’s owner Louis Karamanos did state to Wang he wasn’t a part of the poker league and felt “violated” by his arrest. The owner and employees of the Nutz Poker League declined to speak, but the league issued a statement yesterday that said, “These innocent activities should not be the target of tyrannical enforcement and these matters will be defended vigorously, with the goal of swiftly resuming this lawful and beneficial activity.”

The aftermath of the raid in Tampa has pushed the two other poker operations in the city to action, albeit along different courses. One, Treasure Chest Poker, has looked for clarification on the laws from local officials. The other, Free Poker Nights of Tampa, attempted to capitalize on the Nutz Poker League’s current entanglement with the law, leaving fliers at a bar where the Nutz Poker League operated, according to Wang.

It doesn’t appear that the situation regarding free poker play in Florida will be resolved soon. Marc Dunbar, a Florida State University college professor that teaches gaming law, offered his opinion to Wang that the poker laws in the state aren’t well understood or well enforced. He also said that Florida lacks an official state agency to help out local police when it comes to such statutes. Meanwhile, it seems that all the free poker leagues in Tampa will continue on; after taking a break following their arrests, the Nutz Poker League resumed games yesterday, according to Wang.

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12 Comments

ps0054

Can someone please tell me who the victims are of this purported “crime”? Don’t they have real crime in Florida? What a waste of time, effort and money.


mike lackey

This is awful. This country is sliding further and further in a dark depression and people can’t play free I say FREE poker??? The government needs to stop trying to act like it has morals of some kind, stop kissing the feet of this nations holy rollers, who take trips to casinos regularly, and get the U.S back on track!!


Grant

Sounds like Nazis raiding a church.


1984

Hey. I’ve got a tip for the florida police…

There’s a ring of first graders playing crazy 8s. It used to be old maid, but now they’ve graduated to the hard stuff…. HANG ‘EM ALL! J. Edgar Hoover Elementary located 250 miles east of Miami Beach. Better hang’em young before they contaminate the rest of the school… you know… a few bad apples…

Now for the real comment: damm fools (well, that’s the printable portion, anyway)


JA

You see, this was exactly what the police enjoy. Arresting and harassing honest, non violent citizens. It is so much easier than real law enforcement.
This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. The officers involved and their superiors who signed off on this raid should be fired immediately with no pension. A mile away at the exact time if this raid there where two armed robberies and a sexual assault–that is the problem with America.


smartuko

I used to play in the Nutz Poker League all the time. There is nothing wrong with it.


sdg

Didn’t the New York Supreme court just rule that poker was a game of “skill” and therefore not gambling? It disgusts me that our tax money is paying for this action of continuous government intrusion on personal freedom. With the state of the world today, I would think that there would be something more substantial for the police to spend their time on. The Horror! Poker – something entertaining which promotes local businesses – We should all be locked up. – Where do I make my donations to the defense fund?


Elf-M

Something else mentioned in the artical in the paper, was the exemption now allowed for $.05/.10 games after the “largo eight” arrest of 8 elderly men in their mobile home park club house, changed the rules. If the 140 players were playing .05/.10 games with 50 BB buy-in, there would be $70 in the prize pool instead of a $10-$25 free meal ticket.
If this had been a chess competition and a free meal given to the winner,there would have been no arrests.
Recent changes in the laws are making a distinction between poker, and other types of house odd gambling.
Unfortunitly Florida is behind the times, or the officials are only interest in what they can tax @ the local casinos.


Buz

Next, Florida’s FBI will be raiding the McDonalds where they play Monopoly for a chance to win prizes.
Seems the PPA should get involved defending free promotional poker tournaments.


Anonymous

Fla is not the only state where this goes on.I live in S.C. and have gotten 3 tickets over the last few years for playing in HOME GAMES.The tickets are $100, but any money in your pocket or in your car is taken as punishment.


Ron Paar

I have played in the free poker leagues for 4 years now in Florida, and I am appalled at this action. After a while, I did not care about a bar tab, I just wanted to play poker with my friends. It was good to get togethet at a local place, have a few drinks and have FUN!

Looks like hard working, law abiding people cannot enjoy themselves without worrying about getting locked up for a free poker game. What’s next, breaking people’s doors down?

Thanks for wasting tax payers money!


ZaksDad

Any time I ever have a conversation w/anyone about why I’m such a cynical SOB about anything the government gets involved in, the G-men do something special like this and further confirm my attitude … it’s all about the Benjamins and the power … that’s why they don’t like us to vote on it …


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