By Richard GazarikTRIBUNE-REVIEWWednesday, July 30, 2008
The state attorney general wants a rural Westmoreland County fire department to surrender more than $40,000 it raised from poker tournaments it held last year as fundraisers.
The tournaments were organized by Greensburg attorney Larry Burns, who faces misdemeanor gambling charges for allegedly running Texas Hold 'Em tournaments in Seward.
A petition was filed this week in Cambria County seeking $40,814 the department earned from gambling.
State police seized more than $9,000 during an August raid and are seeking forfeiture of the remaining $31,000, which was deposited in the fire department's account at AmeriService Financial in Johnstown.
story continues below
Attorney Jeff Monzo, who represents the fire department, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Kevin Harley, a spokesman for Attorney General Tom Corbett, said: "We just have lawyers fill out the paperwork on the forfeiture. We'll let the state police speak for themselves."
State police Cpl. Linette Quinn in Harrisburg said forfeiture of cash and other assets from illegal enterprises is routine, especially in drug cases.
Tournament poker has gained popularity since ESPN started airing the World Series of Poker, and the number of online poker tournaments has proliferated.
Under Pennsylvania law, individuals and organizations cannot profit from illegal gambling.
Texas Hold 'Em is a seven-card game in which wagers are made on the best five cards held by players.
In April, state police charged Burns, 63, with profiting from the three tournaments in Seward as well as weekly poker games in Hempfield.
Poker tournaments have been sponsored by fire departments, clubs and other groups to raise money or to boost business.
Playing poker for money at a fire hall, club or business that has a liquor license is illegal, according to state law, unless the tournament is a self-sponsored event.
For private clubs, poker is not allowed under the Local Options for Small Games of Chance.
Restaurants can hold self-sponsored tournaments as long as a third party is not involved. The only exception is if the third party is a charitable organization.
On some Web sites, players can learn locations of tournaments in Pennsylvania and can be notified by e-mail of where the games will be held.