BY FRANCIS X. DONNELLY
THE DETROIT NEWS
Someone forgot to tell charity poker rooms in Michigan about the recession. Gambling licenses doubled in a year. Revenue jumped from $13 million to $166million in three years. The number of rooms ballooned to 192.
Not bad for something that didn’t exist until 2004.
But the rapid growth of the card rooms, a hybrid of private and charitable enterprise, comes with an expensive ante.
It strains the state’s ability to regulate it, legislators said. The Michigan Lottery’s charitable gaming division imposed a moratorium on new card rooms last year.
“They’re all over the place,” said Bob Hoff, 68, a St. Clair Shores retiree who splits his playing time between two poker rooms near each other in Macomb County. “Wherever you live, you can find one.”
The fledgling industry’s growth also stretches the concept of a charity.
Among the nonprofit groups that have benefited from poker rooms in Metro Detroit are 11 chambers of commerce, the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Democratic Club of Taylor, the West River Yacht and Cruising Club in Grosse Ile, and Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.).
“It seems like everybody is a charity nowadays,” said Paul Sacks, president of B.A.S.S.’ Michigan chapter. “Every high school, every church, every Kiwanis club.”