If you’re over 65 and thinking about taking a shot at winning a free can of peaches in the state of Indiana, you might want to think twice before playing your next hand.
According to the director of a senior center in the state, gaming commission officials have informed euchre players at their facility that such games constitute illegal gambling, a declaration that forced the removal of prizes from the games.
The incident began at the Delaware County Senior Citizens Center in Muncie, Indiana.
According to director Judy Elton, she was contacted by the Indiana Gaming Commission last week, and as a result of that communication, she has decided that there will no longer be prizes as a part of the games.
“Someone called [the Indiana Gaming Commission] and was concerned,” said Elton. “If you pay to play and win prizes, that’s considered gambling. We thought that only applied to cash prizes. These people only win a pack of toilet paper or a can of peaches.”
Low Buy-ins Pay for Modest Prizes
The move came as a shock to the senior citizens who enjoy the games as a fun and exciting diversion.
About 50 players at the center took part in the euchre games, which cost $2.50 to play; about $1 of that amount went to the senior center itself, while the rest paid for prizes like the ones Elton described.
“We play five games and we have snacks, then play five more games,” said Berylda Wilson, an 88-year-old who had been playing euchre at the center for 15 years. “Whoever has the high score gets to come up and pick a prize. We use the money to buy the prizes with and we buy sympathy cards or go out to dinner if there’s money left.”
Even local law enforcement officials were stunned to hear of the move.
“Let’s look for a resolution, said Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold. “These are not criminals you’re talking about, for heaven’s sake.”
Once the story broke, it was clear that state officials had been caught a bit off guard.
The story eventually went up as high as Governor Mike Pence, forcing a spokesperson to clarify that there were no plans to break up the games, and that the gaming commission would be instructed to “ensure common sense prevails” when it comes to dealing with such situations.
No Enforcement Action Intended, Says IGC Head
As it turns out, people on all sides of the issue may have needed to take a little more time to understand what was happening before jumping to conclusions.
According to a statement from Indiana Gaming Commission director Sara Tait, who just took that job in May, nothing that took place was out of the ordinary, and there were never any plans to bring any enforcement action against the seniors or the center.
“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,” Tait wrote in a statement. “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.”