Hold your cards.
Pocket Jacks Poker Supplies has agreed to fold its business until Gilbert’s town lawyers and the Arizona Department of Gaming determine whether the retail shop featuring a social gambling card room is legal.
The Arizona Department of Gaming is investigating the business to determine whether it meets the state’s non-casino gaming regulations, according to Rick Medina, a spokesman for the department.
Susan Goodwin, the town’s attorney, advised the Gilbert Town Council on Tuesday that she believes the establishment was operating in violation of state gaming laws, and that Gilbert’s zoning administration believes it is violating town codes because card games were being played inside.
Gilbert’s zoning code does not permit a private card room or non-casino card room in a shopping district. The business, which was opened in May, is located at 825 Cooper Road. There also is a Pocket Jacks in Mesa at 9123 E. Southern Ave., which remains in operation.
On Thursday, Gilbert Town Council voted to deny Marco Renteria, the poker supply shop’s owner, a beer and wine liquor license for Drunken Aces (doing business as Pocket Jacks Poker Supplies) because he was inconsistent in how the business was registered and how he applied for the liquor permit. The town contends that Renteria registered Pocket Jacks as a retail shop — which it is, he said — but not as a social gambling establishment since he allows card games to be played there. Renteria said he was seeking a liquor license so beer and wine could be offered with entertainment packages for private parties, wedding receptions or bachelor and bachelorette parties.
“I think it was unfair they denied us the liquor license,” Renteria said. “Town council just said we were inconsistent in the way we registered the business and did not give us a chance to explain what they were saying the inconsistency was. I am trying to be a law-abiding business here, and not do anything against the town or the Department of Gaming.”
Pocket Jacks’ case next will be heard before the Department of Gaming, and Renteria said he hopes there is some kind of resolution in the next few weeks so he can continue operating the business in Gilbert.
However, Medina told the Tribune that whenever any social card rooms open, they are “quickly on the radar.”
“Just because these places remain open for a while, doesn’t mean they’re legal,” Medina said. “Nothing can be further from the truth. What goes on in a social card room today may not be going on tomorrow or next week.”
Pocket Jack’s website, www.pocketjackspoker.com, states that the business is legal and does not make a profit.
State law defines social gambling as a legal form of gambling as long as it is not conducted as a business and that no other person receives or becomes entitled to receive any benefit, directly or indirectly from the gambling activity.
“If you’re benefitting either way, you may be in violation of the state statutes,” Medina said.
Pocket Jacks Poker’s website states:
“We offer any of the games that the casinos do. All of our dealers are professionally trained. Lots of people ask us, ‘Isn’t it illegal for you to run a card room?’ Our room is 100 percent legal for us to operate because we do not take a rake like they do in the casino. It is illegal for us to charge you in any way to receive cards in a game. This does not apply to the small and big blind since they are not taken out of the pot. So how do we stay in business? Our income is purely gratuity; our dealers work solely on tips and dealer appreciations.”
The website pictures winners who are being congratulated for winning jackpots of almost $200 and $600, after paying a buy-in ranging from $30 minimum to $200 maximum for those who want to play in a cash game, Renteria said.
“If they want to pay they can, but we don’t have a ‘rake-in,’ we don’t charge a table fee, we don’t require people to buy memberships and we don’t require people to pay cash to play,” Renteria said.
Medina said, “The state recognizes a very few narrow regulations that allows social card rooms to operate, but most of the people who try to institutionalize off-reservation ones without much oversight eventually wind up in some kind of violation.”
Arizona social gambling laws
“Social gambling” means gambling that is not conducted as a business and that involves players who compete on equal terms with each other in a gamble. All of the following must apply:
• No player receives, or becomes entitled to receive, any benefit, directly or indirectly, other than the player’s winnings from the gamble.
• No other person receives or becomes entitled to receive any benefit, directly or indirectly, from the gambling activity, including benefits of proprietorship, management or unequal advantage or odds in a series of gambles.
• Until June 1, 2003, none of the players is below the age of majority. Beginning on June 1, 2003, none of the players is younger than 21.
• Players “compete on equal terms with each other in a gamble” when no player enjoys an advantage over any other player in the gamble under the conditions or rules of the game or contest.
Source: Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3301 to 13-3312.