Bill targets poker rooms — why? – Hasso Hering


A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Bill targets poker rooms — why?

Written April 28th, 2017 by Hasso Hering

A bill on “social games” has passed the Oregon House and now is in the Senate.

I don’t play poker and have no interest in the game, but I’m trying to understand why 39 members of the Oregon House — NOT including Albany’s Andy Olson — voted on Thursday to shut down and ban private poker clubs in Portland and perhaps other towns as well.

The vote was 39 for and only 16 (including Olson) against House Bill 2190, which now goes to the Senate. The bill would allow cities and counties to authorize “social games” only if they are operated and controlled by charitable, fraternal or religious organizations.

Albany does not allow private poker clubs. There is one just across the line in Millersburg, though, as readers have pointed out. But in Portland, the city has licensed about a dozen private poker rooms, and those operations evidently stick in the craw of gambling interests and Indian casinos in Washington state. On the witness list for a public hearing held by a House committee, there were lots of Oregon residents against the bill and three for it. Two of the three listed Washington addresses.

The Portland poker operations got in trouble with BOLI, the Oregon regulator of labor issues. The labor commissioner decided that the poker rooms could not have volunteer dealers earning tips only. The dealers had to be considered employees and had to be paid wages. According to Willamette Week, the owner of one prominent poker room closed the place in the face of that ruling and a month later shot himself dead.

But if the dealers are employees, then the operations themselves must be money-making enterprises, which seemingly makes them illegal under existing laws, which bar social game operators, including charities, from deriving any income from the games. But then again, if he sponsors can’t have income from a game, why would a charity put one on?

The law is confusing. No wonder some private clubs squeaked through the ambiguities and became popular with poker players. So now the House wants to shut them down.

During the House debate, nobody cited any abuses or problems associated with poker, at least none that affect the public. So what were they trying to fix or prevent? And maybe their vote, if the bill becomes law, will drive the poker crowd into underground clubs where state or local regulation holds no sway. Kind of like Prohibition, that seems like a pretty dumb move. (hh)

Rep. Andy Olson has gotten back to me with an explanation of his “no vote on this bill: “As it relates to HB 2190, I will focus on the Albany social gambling club, “Black Diamond,” since it will be impacted by this measure. (It’s in Millersburg, actually — ed.) I feel this bill reflects the out-of-control issue of social gambling in the Portland metro area vs. the rural communities. Since 1973, Oregon legalized social gambling. In 2008, counties and cities began issuing permits for poker clubs. These clubs are licensed legally, but some of the actions within the clubs are illegal. Part of this is due to archaic laws. For example, a club cannot act as bank — exchanging money for poker chips — but that is the entire process of how poker works. I do not want social gambling to go underground, but I also realize the laws need to be upgraded. I understand the intent behind HB 2190, but I do not feel it is the best path.  That was why I was a NO vote.”

14 responses to “Bill targets poker rooms — why?”

  1. Dan Pasko says:

    On top of everything else you point out, there also seems to be a fatal flaw in BOLI’s argument. Somehow a compensation model that has been thriving for years with volunteer strippers is deemed unacceptable for volunteer poker dealers.

  2. John Hartman says:

    Albany residents should be pleased that Our Fair City has legislated against dreaded card rooms. The very thought that a citizen of Albany might wish to take a chance on losing their own money runs counter to this community’s ethos.

    I urge the Albany political class to double down on card rooms. Despite Representative Olson’s laisssez faire, hands-off approach to this devilish issue, Albany City Councilors ought to pass a Continuing Resolution that would forever seal the fate of card-playing cretins. There can be no room for games of chance in our town.

    Thankfully, the Albany City Council has the vision and the intestinal fortitude necessary to protect our citizens from the evils of poker. Hopefully they will pass this crucial CR before taking any more 5-minute recesses as we witnessed during the recent Lemco debacle.

  3. James Engel says:

    “Trying to fix or prevent…?”, I’d say that it’s dawned on the Oregon House that they’d better do “something” this session to justify their existence! So pick on an activity with no problems & make it a problem so they can justify that it needs their fixing. Weird Portlanders!….JE

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Stop resisting – your extreme individualism is contrary to the ‘common good.’

    Government, at every level, knows what is best for the hoi polloi.

  5. Tony White says:

    I’m sure some politician’s ox got gored, and this is revenge. We would help our law enforcement people a lot by decriminalizing victimless “crimes” such as gambling.

  6. Neil Michael says:

    There still is a poker room in Millersburg.
    Why does the state allow businesses or individuals from other states to testify or give comments regarding Oregon laws and rules. Especially when they allow it in their states.
    Looks like they want Oregon players to go to all the Washington poker rooms. Also BOLI just picks on poker rooms? I know of other places that have volunteer workers.

  7. Kristi says:

    The State allows legal marijuana, assisted suicide and video poker but gets their panties in a twist over a private club where members play poker for a fixed amount? Such hypocrisy. In watching the pro measure testimony they implied cash businesses like this were akin to “sex trafficking”. State of Oregon, please stay out of my harmless recreational activity and concentrate on improving our failing schools and meeting our budget shortfall.

  8. Kris Hoppenworth says:

    Why is it that such “great minds” sit around and come up with these ludicrous reasons on why poker rooms should be eliminated. Since when should our government determine how we wish to spend our money?? We pay our taxes…. that is required by law, so why can’t we just be allowed to enjoy a little HARMLESS socializing with good people, in a good
    atmosphere, which is safe and friendly?
    I am retired, I’m just an average woman who enjoys the challenge of the game. Sometimes I win, more often I lose…. but I have fun and enjoy meeting good people.
    If I chose to spend $50 to $100 every now and then on something I enjoy, why should I be punished? I don’t drink or smoke … I’ve never committed a crime, but you treat me and others like we have….Would any of you allow anyone of us to come into your home and tell you what we think you should spend your personal money on?? Maybe we would think to ate to much steak each week or that you drank the wrong beer?? I don’t think any of you would let us…..We just want to play an innocent game of cards…. we want to spend “our” money as we deem fit….I’m tired of a few people who sit in big comfortable chairs that we the tax payers have paid for, telling us how we should live our lives!!!
    Please just look at it from a simple standpoint…. We just want to play cards…, we want to live our lives with out government constantly in our faces. There must be much much bigger issues for all of you to concentrate on. IF WE BUY YOU A NEW SET OF CHAIRS, will you let us be???! Have a good day!!!

  9. Don Erickson says:

    Yup this is our leaders and if it’s about Portland, let’s make it everyone’s problem. I wish our roads and streets were as important. But making a list of who not to vote for next round. We got to get better leaders. This waste of spending just isn’t funny any more, and why we keep letting these people get away with this baffles my mind.

  10. hj.anony1 says:

    Interesting bi-partisan support and opposition to #2190.

    For once, I agree with Olson although it seems he needs to figure out that Millersburg is not within city limits of Albany. Now to find Rayfield comment as to why he is in favor.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Actually, it’s perfectly correct to refer to an Albany cardroom. It has an Albany address, as does all of Millersburg.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Lots of folks seem to think Albany can ride sway over things in Millersburg. The best course of action we have are the Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) — those have and do work very well for both communities.

      The crux of the issue as I read the proposal is not the “social gambling” at all — it seems sticking point is the businesses are not paying minimum wage…

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Murray N. Rothbard said it best, and this issue confirms it:

        There is only one way to regard a minimum-wage law: it is compulsory unemployment, period.

        • hj.anony1 says:

          Who? Rothbard?

          Unfortunately with him, crony-capitalism becomes the norm. Giving rise to regional mafia bosses. Picture that peeps!

          It is easy to see a future where CU is the norm. Social Security for the 45% of society without jobs due to bot automation. When all the store check outs are “self scan”. When all the gas station attendants are bots. Oh wait…State of Washington was way ahead of the times.


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