New gaming law expected to pass Tuesday
New gambling ordinance will allow Texas Hold’em pokerOn Tuesday, Prineville City Council will vote on an ordinance that will repeal the current social gaming law and replace it with one that meets the council's interpretation of Oregon state law.
The ordinance, which is expected to pass, specifically addresses the popular poker game, Texas Hold'em.
The game, made more popular in recent years with celebrity tournaments and nationally-televised competitions, is already being played at several locations in and around Prineville, with the old ordinance rules being applied.
One location is Brothers Family Diner.
Owner Charlie Moore said the restaurant and lounge has featured Texas Hold'em for approximately two months, since they were awarded a license to do so.
Games are Fridays and Saturdays, with occasional games during the week.
"It's really popular," Moore said. "People like it."
Brothers has just one table right now that holds seven players, and last Friday there were seven people playing and seven people waiting in line.
"If the ordinance goes through, we definitely plan on having tournaments," Moore said. "There is a big demand for it. There is no question we could fill tournaments up."
The buy-in will be whatever the council decides, Moore said.
"They are having Texas Hold'em tournaments all over the state," he said. "Bend, Redmond, Portland. They'll be here too as soon as the council passes it."
At Brothers, people may also play 21, usually while waiting to play Texas Hold'em, Moore said.
"The money involved now is according to the old ordinance," he said.
There is a $5 limit on raises, a rule that was made at least 20 years ago. The buy-in is $20.
"We're trying to get the amount raised to account for inflation," Moore said.
Gaming facilities may not collect money as profit from the card games.
"We don't make anything off of the games themselves," he said. "Anything we gain is people buying drinks or food while they're here."
Brothers isn't the only game in town.
The Cinnabar currently holds games Sunday through Thursday night with eight to 10 participants per night on average, said manager Darlene Forseth.
There is a $30 buy-in and $5 maximum bet.
Forseth said the Cinnabar staff and management have not discussed adding tournaments but customers have circulated a petition in support of a revised ordinance to the city council.
The Cinnabar also offers Black Jack on Friday and Saturday nights with no buy-in and a $5 limit on bets.
The restaurant and bar has a non-staff volunteer who runs the table and also plays. She deals the cards but the dealers role in play rotates during the game.
Not everyone is pleased to expand Texas Holdem to include tournaments in Prineville.
Councilman Chet Petersen will vote against passing the ordinance.
"We're splitting hairs if we're going to call it `gaming'," Petersen said. "I'm not against gambling, I'm against the city endorsing it for big time gambling."
Petersen said he is concerned about the large amounts of money changing hands, and that some people may get in over their heads financially-spending money they cannot afford to.
"It brings no socially redeeming value to Prineville," he said.
Moore sees the situation differently.
"With the Oregon Lottery you can loose a lot more money in one of those machines than in Texas Holdem," he said. "If you have an unlimited amount of betting, you can loose money there. With the rules of the city council, your buy-in fee is the maximum you can loose."
Mayor Mike Wendel said the council is adamant that this is social gaming, not gambling.
"Some people would like to bet large amounts, but that is not the intent of the gaming ordinace," he said. "If people want to go out and bet their whole value, everything they own, they should probably go to Reno or Las Vegas. If they want to have a little fun and not loose everything they have in one hand, that is the intent of social gaming."
Prineville police chief Eric Bush said the police department doesn't have resources to pro-actively investigate social gaming issues with a task force, and instead focuses on responding to complaints.
"This ordinance is in many ways more clear [than the previous]," Bush said at the council meeting.
He requested the language be changed on the ordinance under the Revocation of License section from "violations need not lead to conviction, but must establish beyond a reasonable doubt about the `licensee's ability to perform the license activity without danger to property or public health or safety or violation of this Ordinance," to "violations need not lead to conviction, but must establish a preponderance of evidence..."
Bush said the phrasing change would make the ordinance easier to enforce.
The buy-in limit for tournaments listed on the new ordinance is $100. The limit includes any additional buy-in fees at any tournament. In regular games, the maximum of any bet must not exceed $5 and players may raise up to three times.