Police ask prosecutor for gambling guidance

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Poker players beware.

Playing for money in Missouri could be unlucky – even for those who win every hand all night long.

Authorities are taking a tougher stance on poker games for money after a Monday meeting between the Jasper County prosecutor and Joplin Police Department.

The prosecutor clarified Missouri’s gambling law and how it relates to games such as the increasingly popular Texas Hold’em variety of poker.

“I had a conversation with Joplin police Lieutenant Carl Francis, and we talked about the definition of games of chance,” said Prosecutor Dean Dankelson. “I don’t think anyone is looking at breaking up games at someone’s house, but the law doesn’t differentiate between games at a home or games at a business. Any game of chance that meets the definition of gambling in state law is against the law.”

Joplin police Cmdr. Jim Hounschell said the conversation came after a Saturday incident in which police were called via an anonymous tip to a Main Street business about a poker game in which players paid a $20 fee to play and the winner of the game took home the pot.

Hounschell said no one was arrested in this incident.

“We only took a report, and we’ll turn that over to the prosecutor,” he said. “After talking to the prosecutor, we will, in the future, shut down these games and cite the people involved.”

Dankelson said that with the increasing popularity of games such as Texas Hold’em, people should make sure they are aware of the law when it comes to gambling.

“I can’t recall ever prosecuting anyone for playing Texas Hold’em,” Dankelson said. “What I would advise business owners is if you are thinking about holding one of these tournaments in your business, contact an attorney and get their opinion as to whether …