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Online Poker News Archives - December 30, 2005

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Copyright 2005 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P.

December 30, 2005

Attorney general says poker runs are illegal

Author: Claire Osborn

Ruling won't stop police from raising money for charity.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has issued an opinion that poker runs — the popular charity motorcycle rides — amount to illegal gambling.

Abbott's opinion, issued Monday, was a response to a request by the Galveston County District Attorney's office, which in June asked whether a poker run sponsored by a nonprofit group was legal. Participants received a five-card hand for each $10 donation they made to a charity and got cash prizes for the best hands.

The opinion said that would violate state gambling laws. A spokesman for the Attorney General declined to comment Thursday on whether the opinion made all types of poker runs illegal.

"Although the event you ask about would raise money for charity, both a court and this office have concluded that a person sells or offers to sell a raffle ticket 'for gain' under the Penal Code even if the tickets are used for charity," the opinion said.

Poker runs have been used for decades to raise money for charities and other causes. Police groups all over the state have been holding poker runs for at least 20 years, said Larry Watts, chief of staff for Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.

CLEAT has sponsored annual poker runs in Central Texas for the Peace Officers Memorial Foundation, which benefits the survivors of officers killed in the line of duty.

Watts said the group doesn't think Abbott's ruling will hurt the events.

"I don't believe that the participants in our motorcycle ride do it for the purpose of being in a poker run," he said. "They do it because they want to honor fallen officers."

To avoid breaking the law, they'll just eliminate the poker hands at each stop, Watts said. Participants in next year's ride will pay an entry fee and be eligible for door prizes, he said.

Last year, a poker run ended tragically when an Austin police commander and her husband died in a motorcycle crash. Several Austin police officers organized and participated in the December 2004 poker run that raised money for a police victims' assistance counselor with multiple sclerosis. Cmdr. Shauna Jacobson and her husband, retired Austin police detective Kurt Jacobson, died after the last stop in the poker run when he lost control of the motorcycle on Texas 71 near Bee Creek Road.

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