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City should check its poker hand

Our Opinion

With poker tables spreading throughout the city - both legally and illegally - it's time for the Portland City Council to reassess whether this explosion in gambling is in keeping with the intent of a nearly 30-year-old social-gaming ordinance.

As Portland Tribune writer Steve Law has reported in the past two weeks, Portland is experiencing a marked surge in poker establishments. These clubs are licensed by the city and in some cases operate as mini-casinos - with dozens of players gambling under one roof. City police and regulators say they lack resources to monitor these clubs closely and consistently, even though there is some evidence that the letter of the law is being stretched.

We aren't anti-gambling zealots, but we are concerned about the potential for criminal activity stemming from the expanded gambling opportunities. Illegal, high-stake cash games appear to be an offshoot of the poker-club culture, and in one case a cash game was visited by armed robbers - a scene more reminiscent of Oregon's wild west days than of 2010 Portland.

When you combine gambling with loose regulations, you have a formula for deepening social troubles and expanded crime. While a handful of city regulators attempt to interpret the law and enforce it, we believe the city's policy makers also have an obligation to consider whether the law is working as intended.

Portland's mayor and city commissioners should recognize the potential for abuse and criminal activity and, in response, take a look at whether the current poker craze truly fits the definition of 'social gaming.'