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State Gambling Control Agents Shut Down Two Illegal Gambling Operations in Monterey County
(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced that seven Monterey County residents were arrested last night on charges stemming from their operation of illegal Texas Hold’em Poker Tournaments and sports betting pools. The arrests are the product of a two-month investigation and sting operation by the Attorney General’s Division of Gambling Control ("DGC").
Under California law, Penal Code section 337j, any person or business that runs a gambling operation, including poker tournaments, must be licensed with the Division of Gambling Control. A violation of this law is punishable as a misdemeanor, however, it is legal to play card games for money in private homes where no person makes money in exchange for operating the game. State law, Penal Code section 337a, also makes it either a felony or a misdemeanor for any person or business to operate a sports betting pool, or “Sports Book.”
Last night four arrests made at Cuz’s Sportsman’s Bar located at 594 Broadway Avenue in Seaside. Michelle Kaan, 39, owner of the bar was cited for using the business as an unlicensed card room to operate illegal poker games and also conducting illegal sports betting. Also cited for their involvement in the illegal card room operation were two bartenders, Rudolpho Lopez, 47, and Donald Hoover, 31. Cliff Gritzmacher, 46, the poker tournament operator and promoter, was also cited at the business.
Three arrests were made at another bar, Segovia’s, at 650 Lighthouse Avenue in Monterey. Laurence Segovia, 62, owner of the bar was cited for using his business as an unlicensed card room and offering an illegal sports betting operation. Two bartenders, Ross Blankenship, 33, and Walter Hayes, 61, were cited for their involvement in the illegal sports betting pool. Mr. Hayes was also arrested and booked into county jail on the charge of possessing approximately one ounce of cocaine for the purpose of sale.
After receiving a complaint in June, 2005 about alleged illegal gambling, undercover special agents from the Division of Gambling Control opened an investigation and played in weekly illegal Texas Hold’em Tournaments at both of the bars. At Cuz’s, undercover agents and other participants paid $15 to enter the tournament, during which they played poker at one of three tables for an hour. The top three winners from each table then played each other for a second hour, with prize money awarded for the three players with the most chips. Prizes ranged from $150 to $50, with all entry money being awarded to the players. At Segovia’s, the Texas Hold’em Tournament took place at a single table.
The criminal cases have been referred to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
DGC agents were assisted in last night’s arrests by agents from the California Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC), Seaside Police Department, and the Monterey Police Department.
ABC will file an administrative accusation against the owner-licensees of Cuz’s and Segovia’s for allowing illegal activity to be conducted at their businesses. These violations could lead to a fine, suspension or revocation of the bar owner’s license.