Minnesota authorities field poker complaints, issue warnings

Since Minnesota legalized Texas Hold'em poker games in public establishments last summer, state authorities have been overwhelmed by dozens of complaints each month claiming certain tournaments may have violated some of the law's provisions. The new law, which was enacted by the Minnesota Legislature in July, 2005, allows bars and clubs in Minnesota to host Texas Hold'em tournaments provided they follow a specific set of rules aimed at making the games "no risk."

According to CentreDaily.com, the Department of Public Safety's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Unit is sending out approximately 15 warning letters each month to organizers suspected of violating the new law.

Said Scott Stewart, a senior special agent in the unit, "We're logging about 40 calls a month. It's staggering. It's all over the state. This is huge, the number of people that have gotten it wrong."

Offenders could face criminal penalties and see their liquor licenses revoked if they fail to comply with the provisions set out in the law.

"The law sets out a number of items you have to do to comply with the law," said Stewart. "For instance, it says you have to be able to play for free. A lot of these places make them pony up a buck, five bucks or 10 bucks for a place at the table."

The new law also prohibits host establishments from offering prizes worth more than $200 a person per night. In addition, the promoter or organizer cannot receive any direct financial benefit from the game.

Stewart said that owners have so far acted in compliance with the law once they received a warning as they are often unaware they are actually breaking the law.

"Everybody's been very good about it," he said. "Once we sent them a letter, we've straightened them up."

First time offenders are not usually fined.

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