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Gaming ordinance a no go; council plans to revise

Gaming committee will begin process of reviewing ordinance

by: ANNEMARIE KNEPPER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Crook County Fair is in full swing Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Annual features like carnival rides and 4-H exhibits greet visitors, along with newer attractions such as Kids’ Safety Day and Toddlers’ Driving School, both on Friday from noon to 6 p.m.

After hearing requests from two citizens, the Prineville city council did not pass a revised gaming ordinance Tuesday, with the intent of sending it back to the committee that originally crafted it for further revisions.
   "I would rather do it right the first time," offered council member Gordon Gillespie after it was suggested that the ordinance be passed as is, and amended at a later date.
   The current ordinance does not address specific games. The unpassed revised ordinance contains a section specifically addressing tournaments for the popular poker game Texas Hold'em.
   Gillespie made a motion to send the ordinance back to the committee and was seconded by council member Chet Petersen.
   No one testified in favor of not allowing Texas Hold'em in any form.
   Prineville residents Bob Elsea and Dustin Conklin gave public comment that, dealing three nights a week at the Horseshoe Saloon, they have seen players lose hundreds of dollars a night.
   Elsea and Conklin argued that a player may lose just as much money or more playing several $5 bets than playing with a $100 buy-in and a $200 limit, for example.
   They said the person managing the table needs to be responsible for cutting the player off, "just like alcohol."
   "The social gaming aspect does not go away with a pot limit or no limit game," Conklin said. "It's not going to change the atmosphere."
   Elsea cited nearby cities and casinos as operating successfully in this fashion.
   "All I'm asking, if it's legal, is to let the people run the table," he said. "We're just asking to have the same rights as neighboring cities."
   But is it legal?
   Prineville city attorney Carl Dutli says no.
   Accepting tips, as is common practice with dealers including Conklin and Elsea, could be considered a violation of the law in that it is commercially beneficial to the dealers.
   Regularly dealing is also in violation. Though at the Horseshoe and other locations, a button is passed from player to player each round, giving them the "rights" of a dealer.
   Dutli said any person getting tipped is making money off the game, which is against state law.
   "The ordinance is meeting state law the way it is written, but the way it is being played in town does not," Dutli said.
   Conklin and Elsea cited other cities operating in this manner. Dutli said if they were, they would also be operating against state law.
   "All we're looking for is the option to play how we want to play," Conklin said.
   How they want to play is a bit differently than the way the new ordinance reads. Conklin described allowing for a second, higher stakes table with a pot limit or no limit during regular, non-tournament play. This table would have a maximum $100 buy-in.
   The new ordinance allows for up to a $100 buy-in for tournaments only. Regular play has no buy-in and a maximum bet of $5 and a three-raise limit.
   Conklin pointed out that a player may lose just as much money or more playing several $5 bets than playing with a $100 buy-in and a $200 limit.
   City manager Robb Corbett agreed, saying the $5 limit is an intent to restrict losses. "But if you played all night, you could lose all that there is to lose," he said.
   The current ordinance, No. 866, passed in 1982, repealed ordinance 732.
   It states, "no person shall participate in, operate, or assist in operating, any gambling game or activity."
   Then, the ordinance defines gambling as "any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device played for anything of value in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, nothwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein; except the term 'Gambling' shall not include social games."
   Social games are then defined as, "a game, other than a lottery, between players in a private club or place of public accommodation where no house player, house bank, or house odds exist, and there is no house income from the operation of the social game."
   Under regulations, the law also states "the deal shall be on a rotating basis," and "no charge shall be collected from any player for the privilege of participating in any game."
   The regulations also call for an assigned person whose duties include "supervision of any games played within the premises and see to it they are played strictly in accordance with this ordinance and within the provisions of the Oregon Revised Statutes."
   The ordinance was revised in 1983 to raise the bet limit from $2 to $5 and amended again in 1993 to say the premise licensee "shall have the responsibility to ensure that the game is a social game, between players only, and that there is no one engaging in the game as a business or commercial enterprise."
   It will be up to the committee to find language that more specifically addresses these issues.
   The gaming ordinance committee is made up of council members and members of the community.
   "The process is going to have to start over again," Mayor Mike Wendel said. "We didn't pass the second reading. There was no motion to approve the second reading. We deferred it to the committee and when we bring it back up it will probably have to be read twice."
   He said revision of the old ordinance took several months.
   "Our intent is to have it ready for the next meeting," he said, adding there are no guarantees.
   The committee members are Jim Harris, Mike Wendel, Carl Dutli, Ray Cuellar, Hugh Dragich, Charlie Moore and the council plans to add Dustin Conklin.
   "That's a good mix of council members, business owners, and people that know the games," Wendel said.