SPRINGFIELD, Mo. While no charges have yet been filed as of Friday evening, so far three men have been arrested for promoting gambling at the Club House, a business located in a well-known strip mall just off Battlefield and Kansas that used to house a Hallmark card store.
44 year-old William Schroeder, 40 year-old Jeremy Smith and 36 year-old Ryan Bailey, all of Springfield were arrested for promoting gambling in the first degree but this was not some back-alley hidden operation.
The business advertised itself as the safest, cleanest, and most professional LEGAL club in the state where for a $20 monthly membership, a $15 daily fee and a seat rental of $5 per half hour, you could play poker with other members using chips.
According to authorities, that part was legal.
"If they were just charging people to come in and sit down and play cards and no money was exchanged or nothing of value was exchanged, the law wouldn't apply to that," explained Sgt. Jeff Kinder with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. "But as soon as something of value, either money or some type of merchandise, is exchanged, that makes it illegal."
Kinder said the raid was conducted after their undercover work had discovered that money was changing hands.
"We had sources that were able to confirm that the monetary value had been met during one particular day at least."
KY3/KSPR confirmed that when we sent someone in to the business undercover to ask about purchasing a membership. They were told by an employee, "Bascially you pay for your seat and you play with real money."
Another card player we talked with who did not want to be identified said of the raid, "It was surprising but it really wasn't surprising because I had a feeling that it would happen eventually because of the nature of things."
All this may leave you wondering what constitutes legal and illegal gaming in Missouri.
But the key thing to remember is that if money or something of value is being awarded in a place that's not sanctioned by the state gaming commission or lottery, it's illegal gambling.
"Not too long ago in some of the convenience stores they had what they called cherry machines," Kinder said. "That is a gambling device and because they weren't paying out money people didn't think they were illegal. But they were being paid out in merchandise which made it illegal to possess."
As for your poker games at home with your friends?
"If everybody throws their money in and it goes to pizza and everybody shares in the pizza equally, no," said Ed Grewach, the General Counsel for the Missouri Gaming Commission when asked if that was illegal. "But if the person who ends up with the most chips at the end of the night gets the pot? Is that something a prosecutor is going to look at? Most likely not. But if you ask from a purely technical standpoint is that gambling then my answer would be yes."
Grewach pointed out that gambling has three elements.
1.) Consideration-you have to pay to play.
2.) Chance-it's not a guaranteed outcome.
3.) Prize-you win something at the end of the contest.
"Some places like Monopoly at McDonald's they say no purchase is necessary so you take out the consideration element so it's not gambling. Chance you can get around if you're playing something that requires skill like a trivia contest. And if you don't give out prize money or merchandise, you eliminate that third element. The easiest way to look at gambling in Missouri is that all gambling is illegal unless it's specifically authorized by law. There's the lottery, casinos, bingo, and raffles for charitable and religious organizations. Anything outside of those four is illegal."