Different takes on charity poker - Saturday 12th of March 2005
Mike Kennedy, the owner of Kennedy's Broadway
Billiards at 105 W. Fourth St. who was cited by
the Ohio Department of Public Safety for hosting
Texas Hold'em tournaments, said yesterday he
believes that poker for charity is a good idea,
but that it needs to be legalized for everyone.
Kennedy responded yesterday to Cleveland investor Jeff Jacobs proposing poker games for charity on the west bank of the Cleveland Flats, something Jacobs believes could help lead state legislators to legalize gambling while proceeds from the tournaments go to charities.
However, Kennedy, who played at a Texas Hold'em tournament for charity at St. Christopher's Church in Rocky River on Saturday, said that the more options gambling supporters throw at state legislators in an attempt to entice them to support gambling, the better.
''We're throwing everything at the state we can to try to get them to legalize poker and support casino gambling in Ohio,'' said Kennedy, whose tavern was raided last week for hosting free Texas Hold'em tournaments.
Jacobs is proposing The Nautica Charity Festivals on the west bank of the Flats in Cleveland, which will consist of up to 12 four-day festivals operated by different charities that feature poker played inside a 20,000-square-foot air-conditioned festival center.
The tournaments, which would feature Texas Hold'em and Seven Card Stud, would be held Thursday through Sundays beginning June 16 and continue through Labor Day weekend.
A Jacobs-issued release said yesterday, ''The poker festivals will demonstrate the phenomenal demand for gaming in Ohio and show people that gaming is a viable source of revenue, in this case benefiting charities,'' said Dave Grunewald, vice president of Development/Leasing for Jacobs Investments Inc. of Cleveland.
Jacobs Investments owns the Nautica Entertainment Complex.
''Additionally, we believe that these Charity Poker Festivals will reveal to statewide voters and to statewide elected officials that this job-creating, revenue-generating industry is a plus for Cleveland as well as Ohio,'' Grunewald said in the release.
''Ohioans are traveling to surrounding states to spend their entertainment dollars on gaming, and now that Pennsylvania has legalized slot machines, additional businesses will be drained away from cities like Cleveland and entertainment venues like the Nautica Entertainment Complex,'' Grunewald added.
Kennedy, however, was skeptical that Jacobs' poker tournaments would help show the economic benefits of expanding casino gaming in Ohio.
''It's a great idea, but poker should be allowed in Ohio like just about every other place in the world,'' Kennedy said. ''The hypocrisy of the state is that they don't want anyone competing with them on gambling.
''On one hand, the state is punishing legal gamblers, but on the other hand, the state has its own form of legalized gambling, and that's the Ohio Lottery,'' Kennedy added. ''The odds of winning the Ohio Lottery are a lot worse than Texas Hold'em or Seven Card Stud, but the state doesn't seem to mind that people spend a lot of money on that.''
Kennedy also said yesterday he and his attorney plan to seek a preliminary injunction against the Ohio Department of Public Safety so he can continue hosting his Texas Hold'em tournaments.
Kennedy said that he plans to file the request for the injunction in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas against the Ohio Department of Public Safety, which raided his establishment on March 13 and ordered him to stop hosting the tournaments.
Kennedy said he wants his eight card-playing tables, eight decks of cards, chips and other articles returned to him that were confiscated from his establishment by officials from the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
''We're right, and the state is wrong,'' Kennedy said. ''When you're playing poker for free, it's not a game of chance.''
Kennedy also said he has lost 80 to 90 percent of his business since the raid on his establishment last week.
''When the card tables went up, it pushed the pool players out,'' Kennedy added. ''Now that the card tables are gone, we're dead in the water. If we don't get a favorable ruling from the court, I'll leave Ohio --??but I plan to put up a hard fight, though.''
The Ohio Department of Public Safety contend that from Nov. 22 to March 13, Kennedy was hosting games of chance in his tavern, something prohibited by Ohio gaming laws.
Kennedy was issued an ''administrative violation'' in connection with his bar's liquor license for ''permitting and/or allowing gambling (recklessly permitting public gaming),'' according to the citation, and he also was cited for obstruction.
The Ohio Investigative Unit for the Ohio Department of Public Safety contends that Kennedy was in violation of state law because he was allowing poker -- which is defined by state law as a game of chance -- to be played in his bar, according to Richard Cologie, a spokesman for the Ohio Investigative Unit.
''Under the public gaming section, poker is a game of chance and a game of chance can't be conducted in a hotel, restaurant, tavern, store, arena, hall or a public place,'' Cologie said.
Kennedy said until the raid, he had hosted 244 Texas Hold'em tournaments.
Because Kennedy has a liquor license, he will have to appear before the liquor control commission to plead his case, and could face a written reprimand or possibly lose his liquor license if found guilty of the charge, according to Cologie.
However, Kennedy said that there was not an entrance fee to play the tournaments, no money was awarded to the winners, and that since there was no chance of losing anything, the twice-a-night tournaments he held weren't games of chance.
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