In a legislative hearing conducted yesterday, supporters of Michigan’s charitable poker room industry – including card room owners, charitable organizations and players – turned out in full force to let their voice be heard regarding new proposed regulations on said industry.
Melissa Anders of MLive.com reports that more than 140 people were in attendance for a legislative hearing in Lansing on Thursday that dealt with the issue of regulation of the charitable online poker industry. Anders states that a huge majority of those in attendance were supporters of the charitable poker rooms and their “millionaire parties” and let their voices be heard frequently throughout the hearing.
Under discussion by the board are new proposals from the executive director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, Rick Kalm, that Kalm believes are necessary to rein in illegal activities in charitable poker rooms across the state. Last month, Kalm introduced nineteen pages of new regulations – including a midnight stoppage time and a reduction in the number of days a charity room could operate to 30 – that were met with derision from many supporters of charity gaming. Since introducing those regulations, Kalm has refined his suggestions.
In exchange for lifting a 2011 ban on the opening of new charitable rooms, Kalm wants to now limit charitable poker rooms to one charitable event per day with maximum chip sales of $15,000. The charitable rooms would be able to operate 120 days out of the year (instead of Kalm’s previously proposed 30) and “some locations” would be allowed to stay open until 2AM. Kalm said that, due to feedback from charities, he wanted to ensure that they would still be able to raise money through the “millionaire parties.”
These new regulations are a far cry from what were the previous guidelines, however. Last year, charitable poker rooms in Michigan could operate up to six charitable games per day with maximum chip sales of $90,000. Under the new enforcement by Kalm and the MGCB, rooms were cut down to three charitable events per day and chip sales of $45,000 this year.
The hearing brought out proponents on both sides of the argument, who voiced their opinions on the proposed new regulations. The deputy legal counsel for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Dave Murley, stated during the hearing, “Charitable poker began as a good cause, evolved into a highly lucrative business and has degenerated into a racket,” he said, prompting those in attendance that support the charitable rooms to boo him thunderously.
Charities such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Lions Club and other non-profit organizations were in attendance and pointed out how the new regulations would affect them. Not only would charities lose a method of fundraising, they pointed out, but the economy would be affected by the loss of jobs in the poker rooms (dealers and wait staff) and by the closure of rooms that already exist. A member of the Michigan Charitable Gaming Association, Ron Pioch (also a member of a charitable cause, the Knights of Columbus), said that the organization wants to help be a part of the solution but that Kalm and the MGCB’s proposed regulations go too far and wouldn’t address issues the MGCB has with charitable poker rooms.
The best statement regarding the new regulations was made by a general manager for one of the charitable rooms. Electric Stick general manager Geo Marvasa (whose club has been closed since a fire in May) said during the hearing, “I don’t understand how you guys are saying that this is good for charities by regulating it so much…you’re not helping the charities, you’re hurting them.”
For the regulations to take effect, the Michigan General Assembly would not have to vote on the issue. A legislative committee comprised of members of the House and the Senate would meet and, without consideration by the full Assembly, choose to either enact the new regulations or propose changes to the regulations. There is also action in the General Assembly to pass a bill that would allow for the charitable poker industry to operate under set regulations not proposed by the MGCB.
It was previously stated in a newsletter from the Poker Players Alliance that a future hearing on the charitable poker room situation in Michigan would be held on November 7. Anders and Poker News Daily have been unable to confirm that date, but will continue to monitor the discussion as it continues in the Wolverine State.