Poker posing minimal problems

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Fifteen months after the ordinance allowing Texas Hold ‘Em took effect, Sweet Home Police Chief Bob Burford is reporting no real problems with the activity.

“We have had one complaint,” he said. “One player alleged impropriety. Based on the nature of the complaint, it didn’t warrant a criminal investigation.

“We’re having the same amount of problems I expected.”

The City Council adopted an ordinance allowing commercial establishments to host Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments in June 2007. The ordinance took effect on July 13.

The ordinance sunsets in July 2009 when the council plans to hear a report on how the ordinance has worked.

Under the ordinances, the house is not permitted to make money directly from the tournament.

Organizers make their money from the sale of food and beverages during the tournament.

To run a tournament, a business must obtain a license through Sweet Home Police Department. Two have done so, including Chewy’s Sports Pub and Waterhole Tavern. A third establishment, Ricky’s House of Cards, failed to open, while the Veterans of Foreign Wars has expressed interest in the license.

Prior to the ordinance, only nonprofits could run the Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments as fund-raising events.

Burford said the man who complained about impropriety “was getting kicked out of all the poker tournaments.”

The complainant was kicked out for getting into arguments with other players and trespassed from the location, Burford said.

The complaint alleged that one of the businesses was running tournaments without a license, he said. The business had a license at the time of the complaint, but the complainant said it had run tournaments before obtaining a license.

“Other than that, it’s been doing great, Chewy’s owner Jim Ashcraft said. “It’s been going great. I’m having fun with it. People are liking it. I haven’t had any problems.”

The council considered whether to allow the tournaments after Ashcraft approached the city about it last year.

He holds tournaments once a week on Thursday nights, he said. He has run almost 100 tournaments since the ordinance went into effect in July 2007.

He started with one table, and now he has 20 to 25 players each week, he said. Each table can have up to 10 players.

The buy-in is lower than allowed by ordinance, he said. He started with $100 but dropped the buy-in to $20.

Police have not had to respond to any tournaments, Burford said. “We’ve gone and done no spot checks. It’s not on our radar, although I’m not saying we won’t someday.”

The police have other priorities, he said. “Their busy time is our busy time.”