Legion member faces illegal gaming charges

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

An official with a local veteran's group has been arrested and more than 30 other people are facing misdemeanor charges for what state investigators are calling illegal gaming.

Glen Hollis was arrested at Greencastle American Legion Post 58 on Tuesday evening and placed in the Putnam County Jail on a preliminary charge of promoting professional gambling.

Officer Jerrod Baugh with the Indiana Excise Police said Hollis violated the law when he organized and promoted Texas Hold'Em games at the post. Players would pay $20 to be a part of the game with the winner of the game getting the kitty.

"He did the banking, he took the money, he brought the cards," Baugh said of Hollis.

Baugh said the Excise Police received a complaint about a month ago that illegal games of Texas Hold'Em were going on at the post.

On Tuesday night, an undercover excise officer went to the post and placed a bet in the game. That's when authorities from the Indiana Gaming Commission, Greencastle Police and Excise Police moved in a broke up the game.

Hollis was arrested for organizing the games and 35 people who were playing the game could be charged as well. Baugh said they were members and non-members of the post.

Baugh said officers took the names and personal information from everyone playing the game and plan to turn that information over to the prosecutor's office. He said playing the game is a misdemeanor according to Indiana Code 35-45-5-1.

"We did not arrest anyone who was there to play," Baugh said.

The legion is licensed for bingo, but Baugh said they are not licensed for Texas Hold'Em.

"They did not have a license that allows them to have Texas Hold'Em Tuesday night," Baugh said. "The Gaming Commission was there. There's no gray area."

What makes the situation worse, Baugh said, is that Hollis and others from the post were warned about a month ago that gambling without a permit is illegal, but apparently did not heed the warnings.

"An official from the Gaming Commission sat down and talked to them for three hours," Baugh said.

The Indiana Gaming Commission received a similar complaint about the same time the Excise Police did, Baugh said.

"They were actually doing an investigation as well," Baugh said.

He said the Legion would have been OK had they just received a festival gaming license, which allows them to hold gambling tournaments for certain fundraisers and other events.

Baugh said he hopes this situation will serve as an education to anyone who plays in card tournaments or bingo games. He said people should be wary and make sure the establishment has the proper permits before playing.

"It's gonna have to be up to the players to familiarize themselves with the laws," he said.

It is not illegal to bet money on pool games or darts, Baugh said, because those are "games of skill." It is, however, illegal to bet on "games of chance," such as Texas Hold'Em, without a permit.

Meanwhile, the post was issued a public nuisance violation, Baugh said, which means they knowingly allowed illegal activity to take place inside their establishment.

The Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission has the authority to decide if any other actions are necessary, Baugh stated.

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