Indiana senior center euchre games

Card games are a popular way to pass the time at senior centers, but rarely do they receive attention from state gaming officials. (Image: Gregory Shaver/Journal Times)

High stakes gambling isn’t limited to slot machines and poker.

If you try to play gin rummy or spades for big money, you run the risk of hearing from gaming officials in your state or country who won’t be too happy with your operation.

Still, you can generally feel safe playing in low-stakes card games at your home.

But sometimes, even the smallest games can get the attention over overzealous officials.

According to reports, the Delaware County Senior Citizens Center in Muncie, Indiana was told by the Indiana Gaming Commission to stop its residents from playing in euchre games in which prizes were awarded to the winners.

Games Awarded Small Prizes to Winners

The games featured small prizes for winners, usually awarding toilet paper, cookies, or other small rewards.

Players paid $2.50 to play in the events, with about $1 of each entry going to the senior center itself.

“Someone called [state gaming officials] and was concerned,” said Judy Elton, the center director. “If you pay to play and win prizes, that’s considered gambling. We thought that only applied to cash prizes. These people only win a pack of toilet paper or a can of peaches.”

The reaction stunned residents, who couldn’t believe anyone would care about their little games.

“We play five games and we have snacks, then play five more games,” said 88-year-old Berylda Wilson. “Whoever has the high score gets to come up and pick a prize. We use the money to buy the prizes with and we buy sympathy cards or go out to dinner if there’s money left.”

That meant that the prizes were put to a stop, causing a flurry of media attention over the strict interpretation of state gaming laws.

That quickly led to statements from local prosecutors, the Indiana Gaming Commission and even Governor Mike Pence clarifying that they had no interest in taking action against a group of senior citizens playing a penny ante card game.

“When Governor Pence became award of the situation in Muncie this morning, he directed the Indiana Gaming Commission to make sure it does not have any plans to shut down euchre card games at the Delaware County Senior Citizens Center or to take enforcement action against them,” Kara Brooks, communications director for the governor, said in a statement. “He has asked the Commission to review its procedures to ensure common sense prevails when reviewing complaints and concerns.”

Gaming Officials Say They Never Planned to Punish Seniors

As outrage over the situation grew, it became apparent that gaming officials were going to have to make some kind of statement related to the euchre game that was dominating headlines throughout the state.

That eventually came from Indiana Gaming Commission Director Sara Tait, who said that the situation had been slightly overblown.

“Card games like these are very similar to developing a Final Four bracket or $5 poker night with friends,” Tait said in a statement. “The Indiana Gaming Commission uses a common sense litmus test and did not, and never had, any plans to take enforcement action against this euchre club.”

According to Tait, the commission had only responded to a complaint, and had not made any threats of action against the clubs.

“We responded to a complaint from a member of two euchre card clubs regarding mishandling of funds at one of the clubs utilizing a senior center for gaming,” she said. “Consistent with our goal of educating organizations about charity gaming compliance, the organizations were sent a form email with information about the kinds of licenses available.

“We distribute regularly such email information following the receipt of a complaint. As is consistent with our practice in such matters, once the Indiana Gaming Commssion sent the email, there was no intention to address this further and no additional communication, as expending resources on such minor issues is not consistent with Commission priorities.”