Casino Nights in Harford County Illegal

(Harford County, MD) — The Harford County Sheriff’s Office is trying to get the word out to everyone that casino nights, used by non-profit groups to raise money, are illegal in Harford County. The release of this warning comes on the heels of an influx of non-profit groups seeking to hold these events and bold advertisements that offer casino games such as Texas Hold’em, Poker, Roulette, Craps and Blackjack. Captain Douglas Verzi, Commander of the Administrative Services Division, says it is not the intent of the Sheriff’s Office to the restrict or prohibit a non-profit group from having a fund raising event but the law is specific and these games are illegal. “Maryland’s gambling laws are quite specific”, Verzi says, “allowing us to only issue licenses for bingo, instant bingo, paddle wheels and raffles”. However, raffles with a 50/50 prize, casino nights, and Texas Hold’em tournaments are not permitted,” he said, adding, “Even if the games are not being played with real money”.

Verzi said it is the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office to issue gambling licenses and record the proceeds non-profits derive from their events. “But it was after receiving several requests for Texas Hold’em style events and casino nights and the accompanying advertisements that caused us to look closer at how these events were being held”, he said. Verzi added another issue that police recently learned was that companies who employed professional gaming table operators would contract with the non-profits to run the event. Verzi says Maryland’s Gaming laws that apply to Harford County do not permit that. The current laws state that operators of the event must be members of the organization who are organizing the event. Verzi also said he believes everyone has acted in good faith and their goal is simply to raise money for their charity. “We don’t believe anyone was out to do anything wrong, but the law can be confusing even for those who have to enforce it, he said. “We reviewed it internally and then asked the States Attorney’s Office for a legal opinion before we issued warnings to event organizers”, Verzi said.

Verzi said the Sheriff’s Office receives hundreds of requests for gambling permits each year and very few if any are denied. “Often”, Verzi says, “The only problem we have is people failing to return their report of the proceeds”. That report is due back to the Sheriff’s Office fifteen days after the event and it requires the event organizers to notify the Sheriff’s Office of the amount of their proceeds, he explained. Failure to return the form could prevent the organizers from obtaining another gambling license for up to a year after the violation, Verzi says.

Jeanette Gamble, Sheriff’s Office Records Manager and the person responsible for overseeing the issuance of gambling licenses, says to help non-profits her staff have placed the gambling applications on the Sheriff’s Office website. “But more importantly”, she said, “We also have a link to Maryland Annotated Code which explains what is and is not permitted”. “This is an important link, Gamble says, “Because it gives event organizers access to the actual law, which can guide them in the application process”. Gamble says to access the link log onto Click on Administrative Services and click on Central Records.

Captain Verzi also cautioned people to view the web site or call the Sheriff’s Office and research what they want to do before doing it. Some non-profits have been advertising events, selling tickets, and then applying for the license, Verzi said, which is a violation of the law.

Verzi again reiterated the Sheriff’s Office wants to see non-profits be successful and doesn’t want to be the agency that prohibits a charitable event from taking place. “But the law is what it is and we would be remiss if didn’t properly inform the public of what the law states”, Verzi said.

Press Release

February 10, 2005