Earlier this year, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) announced that it was going to tighten up its rules on Charity Poker operations and it has followed through with its promise. Recent reports confirm that the MGCB has shut down a large number of charity poker establishments including the likes of the Pocket Aces Poker Room located inside Foutch’s Pub and Grill in Flint Township and The Palace Poker Room in Burton.
These poker charity groups support a large number of establishments including schools, civic bodies and sports groups.
A number of other poker rooms in Michigan are also expected to be shut down shortly. The MGCB are currently paying visits to a number of these poker rooms and conducting a strict review. Based on the results, they give them a green light to continue or a notice to wind up their operations before a stipulated date.
In a statement, Kevin Lakits, who operates the Legends Sports Café Poker Room in Fenton Township said “Of course we’re nervous they would shut us down. From what I understand, there were more than 100 rooms in Michigan. Now there’s less than 40. If the intent is to shut us all down, the path has been set by the people operating it.”
One of the reasons why the MGCB is cracking down on these charity poker rooms is because it believes that there are loopholes in the current legal framework that allow these establishments to exploit these loopholes. The current Michigan law allows these charities to report their chip sales directly to the state. They are not required to be audited so that their figures can be verified. MGCB Executive Director Rick Kalm has stated that rules like this have allowed charity poker establishments to report lower revenue and hence these issues had to be addressed.
A statement on the MGCB website from Kalm states that
“…routine underreporting of sales and illegal involvement at numerous locations, many of which call themselves ‘Poker Rooms’ and are driven by profits and volume, not in helping local charities as evidenced by our investigations. The large amount of cash running through bars/poker rooms has many times led to fraud and illegal activities when there is little or no oversight.”
However, Kalm’s views did not go down well with Stephanie Van Koevering who is the spokesperson for the Michigan Charitable Gaming Association. Van Koevering was critical of the move to shut down charity poker establishments and said “If there’s a shooting in a nightclub, do you shut down all the night clubs? Of course not. We find the board’s arguments to be disingenuous. If they can’t regulate small poker rooms, how can they regulate a major casino in Detroit?”