Washington State Gambling Commission Shuts Down Senior Penny-Ante Card Games

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For decades, gambling was mostly illegal in the United States, outside of destination spots like Atlantic City and Las Vegas. As budgetary realities have left gaping chasms in city, county, and state budgets, many government officials have softened their stances on local casinos. Still, some places — like Snohomish, Washington — continue to have laws against gambling.

For more than two decades, senior citizens at Snohomish Senior Center have been playing penny-ante card games that are technically illegal. According to Reason, the city was “alarmed at the prospect of for-profit card rooms” and banned them outright. Since the center asked for a donation from the card players, it was in violation of city law. An anonymous person informed the Washington Gambling Commission, who sent a letter banning playing for money but stating that “tokens or points” would be acceptable.

The city council will consider ways to allow the games to continue at a meeting in two weeks. One solution seems simple: The law was meant to prevent for-profit gambling, so an exception for non-profits and a limit on betting to small dollar amounts could be instituted. However, according to KING 5 news, doing so could open the door to further challenges to the law and pave the way for the type of for-profit card rooms the city hoped to avoid.

While Snohomish seniors will almost certainly get to continue their card games, the advance of for-profit card rooms depends really on one thing alone: the city budget. City Councilman Tom Hamilton advocates that the city allow gambling. Senior center card-player Peter Richard had another money-making idea, since Washington is one of two states to legalize recreational marijuana: "We should turn the card rooms into growing rooms for marijuana. Then we could make some money and have free lunch at the club."

Source:, ABCNews