A bill that would close poker rooms in the US state of Oregon went under preliminary debate before a panel of state lawmakers this week.
The debate showed that the issue is divisive within Oregon’s legislature, with a number of representatives voicing their staunch opinions both for and against the bill. One view that was put forward for the bill was that of its sponsor, Republican Party Representative Julie Parrish. Ms Parrish, who had previously described poker rooms as being akin to “hookah lounges”, said that poker operations throughout Oregon were operating outside of social gaming statutes.
Ms Parrish elaborated on that assertion by stating poker rooms and clubs in the state charge cover fees for entry into their venues, act as the bank for poker chips and dealers often receive tips from players. This would be in breach of current Oregon laws which state poker rooms are only permitted to earn income from sales of food and beverages, not from the poker games taking place on their premises.
A lobbyist for a number of Oregon’s poker rooms and establishments was also present at the debate. Geoff Sugerman, who described himself as a frequent player of tournaments at poker clubs in the state, said poker rooms have done all they could to comply with existing laws they are obligated to operate under.
“We should be applauding and helping their entrepreneurial spirit, not trying to shut them down,” Mr Sugarman said at the debate. “These folks are not felons. They have never been raided, shut down or even cited.”
Another pro-bill figure present at debate was attorney Tom Rask, who first aired concerns to Ms Parrish regarding Oregon poker rooms. Mr Rask said that there was “no question” that illegal poker facilities were operating in the state, especially in Portland, Oregon’s largest city.
Mr Rask, however, also represents poker and card rooms in the town of La Center in the state of Washington. La Center, a town of roughly 2,800 people, is situated approximately 42km from Portland and is home to four gaming establishments which only allow poker and other card games to be played.
Four card rooms in such a small town would more than likely mean that gaming is a solid contributor to La Center’s economy. Any legislative moves in Oregon that would result in the closure of Oregon poker rooms would, obviously, leave Oregionians with no legal place in their state to play the game.
This would make the card rooms at La Center a more favourable option for Oregonian poker players who still wish to play poker in a legal setting, given the reasonable distance between the two areas. It is unfair, at this stage, to imply and assume that Mr Rask has ulterior motives by speaking in support of the bill at the debate. However, it is fair to believe poker rooms in La Center would gain a greater number of clientele from Oregon if this bill passes and poker rooms in Oregon are forced to close down.
In its present from, the bill would limit the playing of poker to religious, fraternal and charitable organizations. At this stage, it is unclear whether or not the bill will be voted on in the Oregon legislature before August, which is when the legislature’s session ends.