Poker rooms operate with impunity in the Valley - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Poker rooms operate with impunity in the Valley

PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Poker room operators in the Valley are not shy about broadcasting their locations.

There are no discreetly placed signs. No secret handshakes to get you in the back door. These establishments are setting up shop in local strip malls and advertising with big signs above their front doors and bold letters on shopping center marquees.

Poker has increased in popularity over the years. Games are now televised and casinos are cashing in on the players excitement of the game. The only place you can legally gamble on poker in Arizona is at a casino located on an Indian reservation.

So, it would seem these poker rooms are operating with impunity and that the operators do not feel as though they are running an illicit operation.

"There are so many gray areas in the law. Just the definition of gambling in the state of Arizona is gray," says former card room operator John Schnaubelt.

Schnaubelt ran his own card room until he ran out of money to continue supporting it. Herein lies the problem for gambling promoters in Arizona; by running a poker room, state law says the organizer cannot profit.

"I don't think its as gray as area as people claim it is," says former prosecutor Mark Brnovich, director of the Arizona Department of Gaming. "If someone is getting a direct or indirect benefit from the gambling. It is illegal."

Under that literal definition, if you were to organize a poker game at your home and the players all tipped you for hosting the game, that would be you receiving a benefit. Meaning, you would be breaking the law.

At the AZ Clubhouse off of Thunderbird Road in Phoenix, owner and Texas hold 'em dealer Don Heitz says he consulted an attorney before opening his establishment. No money changes hands and no chips leave the table. Heitz says his is a members-only club with no high stakes and at no profit to him.

"No. I have not made any money yet," Heitz says with a laugh.

Heitz says he knows for a fact that other card rooms are operating illegally.

CBS 5 News also met the owners of the Camelback Card Club off of 32nd Street near Shea Boulevard. They actually advertise their establishment in the newspaper.

They tell CBS 5 News they feel comfortable they are operating a legitimate, social and nonprofit operation.

But, they also acknowledge that others are not, by charging membership fees and taxing players in other ways.

"If there's folks operating casino operations inside of a strip mall, that would cause me a lot of concern because that is unregulated gambling," says Brnovich.

Brnovich says the Arizona Department of Gaming is five for five. The department has seen convictions in all five illegal card room operators they have raided during Brnovich's tenure.

John Schnaubelt says there are 36 card rooms open in the Valley and he wonders why none are being investigated, because he believes all of them are operating illegally.

"All they need to do is walk into a card room and see a dollar or a chip leave the table," says Schnaubelt. "Boom. It's a conviction."

"You have a limited amount of resources and you have to prioritize what you can and can't do," says Brnovich.

A Department of Gaming intelligence unit follows up on tips and complaints about possible illegal gambling locations, according to Brnovich. If no one complains, however, the Department of Gaming generally will not know what establishment is obeying the law and which ones are not.

"It's an issue that needs to be politicized," says Schnaubelt, "It's something people need to be aware of."

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

  • NEWSMore>>

  • PSC: Kemper story nearing the end

    PSC: Kemper story nearing the end

    Thursday, July 27 2017 11:54 AM EDT2017-07-27 15:54:14 GMT
    The view 240 feet above Mississippi Power's 3,000-acre investment gives you a glimpse at what six years and more than $7.5 billion have produced. (Photo source: WLOX)The view 240 feet above Mississippi Power's 3,000-acre investment gives you a glimpse at what six years and more than $7.5 billion have produced. (Photo source: WLOX)

    Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Cecil Brown spoke Thursday morning at the Neshoba County Fair. And a portion of his remarks focused on the Kemper County lignite plant roughly 30 miles from the fairgrounds. "The Kemper story is not over," the commissioner said, "but one way or another it is nearing the end." Brown used part of his speech to explain the latest developments between his agency and Mississippi Power regarding its $7.5 billion plant.

    More >>

    Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Cecil Brown spoke Thursday morning at the Neshoba County Fair. And a portion of his remarks focused on the Kemper County lignite plant roughly 30 miles from the fairgrounds. "The Kemper story is not over," the commissioner said, "but one way or another it is nearing the end." Brown used part of his speech to explain the latest developments between his agency and Mississippi Power regarding its $7.5 billion plant.

    More >>
  • Gaming commission rejects proposal for Biloxi casino site

    Gaming commission rejects proposal for Biloxi casino site

    Thursday, July 27 2017 11:07 AM EDT2017-07-27 15:07:16 GMT
    Mississippi Gaming Commission (Photo source: WLOX)Mississippi Gaming Commission (Photo source: WLOX)

    The Mississippi Gaming Commission has again rejected a casino site proposal from RW Development.

    More >>

    The Mississippi Gaming Commission has again rejected a casino site proposal from RW Development.

    More >>
  • Jury to hear more evidence before deciding life or death for Scotty Street

    Jury to hear more evidence before deciding life or death for Scotty Street

    Thursday, July 27 2017 8:05 AM EDT2017-07-27 12:05:33 GMT
    Scotty Lakeith Street (Photo source: D'Iberville Police Dept.)Scotty Lakeith Street (Photo source: D'Iberville Police Dept.)

    A Jackson County jury has found Scotty Street guilty of capital murder in the 2014 stabbing death of Frankie Fairley.

    More >>

    A Jackson County jury will hear a second day of evidence before heading back to a conference room and determining whether Scotty Street should receive the death penalty. That jury found Street guilty of capital murder in the 2014 stabbing death of Frankie Fairley, the retired special education teacher from Hurley.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly