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Tipped police put stop to senior center poker

Some call Idaho gambling law too strict

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – The odds were stacked against retirees at the Twin Falls Senior Center earlier this month when police arrived to break up a long-running poker game after receiving an anonymous tip.

About 20 seniors had played at the center for more than five years, but police say nothing in Idaho law permits gambling at any age. Police gave the seniors a warning and didn’t make any arrests.

Residents told the Times-News they paid in $20 to play, the pot was split among the top chip holders, and that the players donated up to $500 to the senior center each month.

Because of the money given to the center, “we thought we were legal,” said 73-year-old Ora Deahl.

Eighty-year-old Doris Williams said they’ve been playing the legal way, without money, since the police visit, but it isn’t as much fun with nothing to lose or win.

Shirley Basham, 75, joked that she first learned playing strip poker with her husband on their honeymoon, but had become fond of the game in her golden years because it was a good way to socialize and didn’t place much physical strain on her.

“I can sit for years,” said Basham.

Fellow player Norman Pohl, who uses a wheelchair, agreed.

“I don’t have many things that I can do,” he said. “I met so many people, I would look for it every week.”

But not everyone could afford to ante up.

“There are some of us who don’t get to play every week because of our budgets,” Basham said.

The seniors said they don’t know who tipped off police, but they want to find out. They’d also like a little slack when it comes to enforcing state gambling laws.

They might get it.

Lawmakers last week sent a bill to Idaho Gov. Butch Otter that would give authorities discretion to not investigate or prosecute all gambling reports.

Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs supports the bill.

“It is a misdemeanor crime for a prosecutor to fail to prosecute someone who fills out an NCAA tournament bracket,” said Loebs. “That seems, at best, to be a waste of law enforcement resources.”



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