Poker Night Busted at Ham’s:
The Man came down on March 4 at Ham’s restaurant on High Point Road, and the message was loud and clear: there will be no poker in Greensboro. No Texas Hold ’em, no Pai Gow, no Omaha and certainly not anything with the name ‘stud’ in the title.
In this case The Man was the State Division of Alcohol Enforcement and the event they were crushing was a freeroll poker tournament with no entry fee and bereft of cash prizes (and which was eagerly anticipated by certain members of the YES! Weekly staff).
Here’s the deal: Ham’s hired 5th Street Entertainment, an independent promotion company out of Charlotte, to run free poker tournaments in several of their area restaurants. Ham’s ponied up prizes in the form of gift certificates and 5th Street provided the gaming equipment and a statewide tournament bracket with the champion getting a trip to Las Vegas.
The pertinent facts are these: no money changed hands between the players and the establishment or the players and the promoter. 5th Street Entertainment claims the ALE issued an opinion allowing these tournaments and based on that judgment the promoters have been running these things for months (according to a news report they’ve scheduled poker nights at 38 restaurants in nine cities since the beginning of the year). The Greensboro district office of the ALE states, through a statement issued by Assistant Supervisor Alan Fields, that busting up free poker games is not a high priority.
So why all the sirens and flashing lights?
ALE officials admitted they acted on a complaint on March 4, a single objection from an ordinary citizen, presumably so offended by an event with even the merest semblance to gambling that he felt obligated to put a stop to it.
Thanks Richard, or whatever your name is, for imposing your values on the rest of us, for depriving a local restaurant of a high-volume evening, for causing a statewide agency to contradict itself and for making sure that people on High Point Road didn’t have any fun that night. And thanks, too, for giving a fledgling small business (5th Street Entertainment) the opportunity to fight for its life in this harsh economic climate.
We at YES! Weekly fully endorse the individual’s right not to attend poker tournaments, just as we feel that people should not be forced to play Bingo or drive across the state line to buy a lottery ticket. And while we know that gambling is illegal in our state (except Bingo, because as anyone can tell you, even God is cool with Bingo), we don’t consider these tournaments to be gambling, strictly speaking, because no money changed hands and there was no potential for loss to any party ‘— until the cops showed up. Then the big losers were Ham’s restaurants, 5th Street Entertainment and the poker players of Greensboro.