In the world of poker, the laws have been changing in some areas very quickly. Michigan is one of those states where online poker has recently come to town, but it has also come with a crackdown on charitable poker. For one Michiganite, the myriad of gaming laws has resulted in him pleading guilty to charges of illegal gambling by operating a poker room, getting probation as his sentence.
Marquette Man Fought the Law…and the Law Won
Joshua Thatcher of Marquette, MI, pled guilty earlier this week to running an illegal poker room in the city. The state came after Thatcher for his operation of 906 Poker Social. The poker room opened just as pandemic restrictions were being lifted in April 2021 and was running until July 8 of the same year.
According to WLUC-TV, the Michigan Attorney General’s office and the Michigan Gaming Control Board investigated the poker club and found that it violated the laws regarding gaming in the state. “The Michigan Gaming Control Board’s mission is to ensure fair and honest gaming in Michigan, and we partner with the Michigan Department of Attorney General to investigate and eliminate illegal gaming activities across the state,” TV6 quotes Henry Williams, the Executive Director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board as saying. “Unregulated gambling operations do not offer Michigan residents the same protections provided through legal, regulated gambling.”
Although the club was shut down in 2021, Thatcher wasn’t charged with any crimes until May 2022. The MGCB came at Thatcher with the full effects of their office, leveling five felony counts of illegal gambling, including using a computer in a criminal act and a misdemeanor charge of running a gambling house. To avoid the lengthy prison sentence involved with these charges, Thatcher instead decided to plead guilty to a singular count of operating an illegal poker room; he was given a one-year probationary sentence by Judge Jennifer Mazzuchi, but he also forfeited all items that were seized during the raid of 906 Poker Social, including poker tables, more than $13,000 in cash and other monetary bank accounts associated with the business.
Reports have typified Thatcher as a “poker professional,” but it appears that would be inaccurate. According to the Hendon Mob database, Thatcher has had $84,640 in total cashes since 2018. One of those cashes was a victory in a Venetian DeepStacks Championship tournament for a $53,383 payday.
Thatcher Uses Texas Approach in Michigan
From the reports by both the courts and TV6, the template for Thatcher’s Michigan club looked very similar to that in another area.
According to various reports, Thatcher set up the club as a private membership club, with patrons entering the club only after paying a fee for a weekly, monthly, or yearly membership. Perhaps where Thatcher went awry was also charging a $10 per hour “chair rental fee” for each player. Poker was the game of choice for many in 906 Poker Social, but other games were said to have been played.
This is what also goes on in the Texas poker clubs that have been a pain for the Lone Star State’s law enforcement. These clubs are also membership-based, with no rake taken from the play of poker. While some frisky DAs have tried to take on the clubs in Texas, nobody has been able to find a charge that will stick, and the state politicos have no desire to either codify or outlaw the activity.
Michigan seems to have decided that it is against the law for such a business to operate, but Thatcher says he was told differently. Thatcher states he was told by the MGCB in 2021 that they could not regulate or license private poker clubs (the MGCB regulates the casino industry in the state, the online operations, and the charitable poker initiatives that exist). Thatcher commented to TV6, “it’s really unfortunate that the state of Michigan does not want people to create a safe, friendly, and professional environment to play poker.”
This sucks I wish louisiana would allow poker clubs but its never going to happen. The casino has to make all the money.