Senior card games in Muncie pegged as illegal gambling

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MUNCIE, Ind. (July 20, 2015) – Seniors in Muncie got quite the scare last week when the state of Indiana told them their weekly euchre games were against the law. Now those euchre clubs are changing how they play, in a card controversy that even has the governor talking.

Monday, seniors at the Muncie Delaware County Senior Center played bingo. But the investigative eyes of the state centered on euchre, a card game played three days a week, until now, illegally.

“They called us gambling for a dollar,” said George Egri, Vice-President of two of the euchre clubs and a player.

“This is not exactly your standard scandal,” said Judy Elton, Executive Director of the center.

Elton said she got a call last week from the Indiana Gaming Commission, letting her know euchre clubs at the center were playing out of compliance.

Elton said members of the clubs pay $2.50 to play, with one dollar going to the center.

Players told FOX59 they can win a dollar too for special scores, along with grocery items like peaches or cookies.

“We wasn’t winning no big money or nothing like that. Not going to the casino, let’s put it like that,” said Janet Wise, a player.

“If people pay to play a game of chance and they receive prizes, however large or small, they receive prizes, and that’s considered gambling,” said Elton, “There’s no distinguishing with them whether we’re giving away Cadillacs, five thousand dollars, or a jar or mayonnaise. It’s all considered prizes.”

Elton said the clubs won’t require anyone to pay in to play anymore, instead they will take donations.

As for who raised the red flag with the state gaming commission, the agency said it was an anonymous tip from a club member, meaning the card controversy all started from within.

“I don’t think I want to know who ratted it out, because I don’t like to carry anger with me,” said Wise, “And I’d probably be a little angry.”

Sara Tait, Executive Director of the Indiana Gaming Commission, released this statement to FOX59 on Monday:

“Card games like these are very similar to developing a Final Four bracket or $5 poker night with friends. The Indiana Gaming Commission uses a common sense litmus test and did not, and never had, any plans to take enforcement action against this euchre club.”

“We responded to a complaint from a member of two euchre card clubs regarding mishandling of funds at one of the clubs utilizing a senior center for gaming. Consistent with our goal of educating organizations about charity gaming compliance, the organizations were sent a form email with information about the kinds of licenses available. We distribute regularly such email information following the receipt of a complaint. As is consistent with our practice in such matters, once the Indiana Gaming Commission sent the email, there was no intention to address this further and no additional communication, as expending resources on such minor issues is not consistent with Commission priorities.”

A spokesperson for Indiana Governor Mike Pence released this statement late Monday afternoon:

“When Governor Pence became aware of the situation in Muncie this morning, he directed the Indiana Gaming Commission to make sure it does not have any plans to shut down euchre card games at the Delaware County Senior Citizens Center or to take enforcement action against them. He has asked the Commission to review its procedures to ensure common sense prevails when reviewing complaints and concerns.”

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