State shuts down senior center's penny ante poker



Posted on February 4, 2014 at 7:37 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 4 at 10:09 PM

The Snohomish Senior Center is suddenly the Caesar's Palace of outlaw gamblers.

"We've got a big criminal record," said Peter Richard. "18 years of playing for dimes!"

A not-so-high stakes game of pinochle was on at the center's tables Tuesday. They're playing for pennies, but betting with money is illegal in Snohomish. In December the State Gambling Commission ordered the games to stop.

"I thought they were off their nut!" exclaimed Richard, as he looked over his cards.

It all started about 5 years ago when the city of Snohomish passed a law to keep for-profit gambling rooms from opening in the city. Somehow, the non-profit senior center got lumped in. The games went on, but then someone apparently snitched and all bets were off. The state had no choice but to enforce the city's ordinance. The folks at the senior center are a bit irate with the government, to say the least.

"If you gave them an IQ test, the needle wouldn't move," said Bill Huested.

"We should turn the card rooms into grow rooms for marijuana," suggested Peter Richard. "Then we would be legal and make some money. Maybe we could have free lunch!"

"It's penny ante," complained Janet Phillips. "Don't they have bigger things to do?"

The city council is now trying to fix the ordinance -- which could end up reopening the door to for-profit card rooms in Snohomish -- the very thing the council was trying to stop 5 years ago. But the council has since shuffled. Councilman Tom Hamilton says there may now be enough votes to allow card rooms to open in the city. He believes it's an option that should be considered.

"If you allow pulltabs, you're hypocritical not to allow social card games," said Hamilton.

The seniors have been ponying up their pennies in Snohomish for 25 years. Peter Richard says it's good for him and his friends.

"We're not out playing football or hockey at our age. This is something we do to get together, keep our minds sharp and enjoy ourselves."