PA Fire Department ‘Illegal Gambling’ Allegations: Update

Originally reported yesterday, new information has come to the surface regarding the Attorney General’s accusations of illegal gambling against the Westmoreland County, PA Fire Department.

The fire department held a series of Texas Hold’em tournaments in an effort to raise funds for the organization. These tournaments were organized by attorney Larry Burns of Greensburg, who faces misdemeanor gambling charges.

State police intervened, staging a raid on the Texas Hold’em tournaments that resulted in the seizure of $9,000. Another $31,000 had been deposited into the departments account in Johnstown. A petition has now been filed in Cambria County seeking to recover the remaining profits for a grand total of $40,814.

The fire department’s attorney Jeff Monzo declined to comment, while Kevin Harley, spokesman for Attorney General Tom Corbett, stated, “We just have lawyers fill out the paperwork for the forfeiture. We’ll let the state police speak for themselves.”

Cpl. Linette Quinn of the Harrisburg state police expressed that forfeiture of profits from illegal enterprise is routine operation, especially in drug related instances.

Pennsylvania state law prohibits profiting from illegal gambling, for both individuals and organizations, regardless of the fundraising aspect. According the legislation, Texas Hold’em is still considered a game chance, not skill, therefore is deemed illegal.

Unless “self-sponsored”, playing poker for real money is banned from any club, fire hall or business that holds a liquor license. Restaurants can hold such tournaments provided they are self-sponsored and do not involve any third-party, aside from charity organizations. Private clubs are prohibited from real money poker games outright, under the laws of the Local Options for Small Games of Chance.

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