Poker rooms and fundraising poker events in Wichita are being shut down by Wichita Police Department (WPD) for running afoul of the state’s gaming laws.

Although poker games in these venues have been going on for many years undisturbed, police has issued notices over the last two weeks to poker operators in the city asking them to shut shop. On Jan. 15, Nilla’s Poker Room was shut down. A few days later the Cure poker fundraising tournament which was scheduled for January 30 was also cancelled.

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Only state-owned casinos are allowed to offer gambling within Kansas. According to State statute KSA 21-6403C, gambling has been defined as a game of chance that is pay to play with the opportunity to win a prize. Any game that satisfies all the three conditions is considered illegal if done outside a casino.

Some of these gambling operators came to the attention of the authorities once they applied for liquor licences but others were bought to its notice via public complaints.

In a statement, Capt. Kevin Mears, Wichita Police Department said, “During the review of their licenses, it clearly states on their [application] that they’re going to be a gambling room. If they are doing gambling, that is against state law and they can have their license revoked and there can be other criminal charges.”

The Cards for Cancer tournament which has been held since 2011 uses the event to raise funds for cancer education outreach and screening services as a part of its effort to help fight breast cancer. This year’s edition was expected have over 650 participants and raise more than $50,000. The event organisers expressed surprise at the police action saying that they had had extensive discussions with the city and police officials regarding the event prior to its announcement.

Poker rooms in the state have generally tended to flirt with the gambling laws in the state. These operators circumvent the rules by offering players chairs to rent rather than fees to enter the game. For example, Nilla’s Poker Room was offering chair rentals as an optional charge meant to “maximize a player’s comfort during the tournament.” The rental was given back to the players as a prize.

In a recent clarification, the Kansas Gaming and Racing Commission the agency that administers gambling laws in the state has clarified that renting a chair is the same as paying to play with an opportunity to win a prize.

Capt. Mears has however sought to reassure saying that the drive to close down poker games is not punish the businesses, but rather educate the public about the state gambling law.

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