Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Barring poker 

St. Cloud is the dateline location for a New York Times article on bars trying to take advantage of the increased interest in Texas Hold'em.
Not 20 minutes into a No Limit Texas Hold'em poker tournament at the Granite Bowl bar and grill here, State Senator Mike McGinn pushed his entire pile of chips into the pot. State Senator Dave Kleis hardly hesitated before following suit, and State Representative Tom Hackbarth quickly joined the "all in" chorus.
"No wonder we've got budget problems at the state," cracked their colleague, State Senator Brian LeClair, who had folded his own cards long before.

"Well, it's other people's money," Mr. McGinn said of the taxes that fill state coffers. "It's kind of the same thing."

Actually, the eight lawmakers gathered around the green felt here on Saturday afternoon, all but one Republicans, were not playing for money at all, but for T-shirts proclaiming, "Poker is Not a Crime" - and to make a point. Betting with chips that had been seized last summer in a police raid on the Granite Bowl's free weekly poker tournaments, they came to support a bill sponsored by Mr. Kleis, who represents St. Cloud, that would explicitly legalize Texas Hold'em (but not other forms of poker) so long as prizes do not top $200.
The PioneerPress calls this "creeping towards Vegas" with a little slam at Dave Kleis, but it's hard to see what the problem here is. The PP's editorial Sunday complained of "full-blown, state-sponsored casinos", while Kleis' bill does no such thing. It allows modest gambling within privately-owned bars, a far cry from the slot machines proposed by two DFLers, which the PP also decried. "To expand state-sanctioned gambling is to erode Minnesota's quality of life," it says. In a state with so many reservation casinos, that's a hard claim to support.