Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Too Much Time on Their Hands

I found out last night that the Michigan State Police are investigating a local VFW hall for having poker games on the weekends. I’ve played in said game a few times and know many of the players. It’s a group of mostly Vietnam and even Korean war vets who sit in the back room a couple nights a week and play poker instead of playing pool out front. Someone apparently decided to call the police and report it, with the speculation being that it’s someone who wants the post commander’s job. The State Police have apparently been investing a lot of time and money in busting up this obvious threat to our society, including videotaping people entering and leaving, their license plate numbers, and so forth. They’ve now begun to call people who have played in the game to shake them down for more information. The filing of charges is imminent.

All of this points to one overwhelming conclusion, in my view – it’s time to cut the state police budget. If you have the resources to commit that kind of time and manpower to stopping a bunch of vets from playing poker together, then obviously there isn’t enough real crime to spend that money on and it’s time to lay some people off and save the money we pay them. The utter hypocrisy of the whole thing is staggering. Here is what the state says is illegal gambling:

Any person or his or her agent or employee who, directly or indirectly, takes, receives, or accepts from any person any money or valuable thing with the agreement, understanding or allegation that any money or valuable thing will be paid or delivered to any person where the payment or delivery is alleged to be or will be contingent upon the result of any race, contest, or game or upon the happening of any event not known by the parties to be certain, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00.

Pretty much covers everything, including the stock market, eh? You buy a stock betting that its value will go up, the person selling it is betting that its value will go down. Which will occur is not known by the parties to be certain, but it’s a risk they are each willing to take. And never mind that, despite this prohibition, there are 19 casinos in the state of Michigan. Never mind that the state itself runs multiple lottery games – Lotto, Mega Millions, daily three and daily four picks, not to mention dozens of scratch off games. This very VFW hall has a vending machine to dispense scratch off tickets and that’s perfectly legal, but if the same vets who buy those tickets decide to play a poker game together then obviously we need to bring the full resources of the state police to investigate them and file charges. It’s a sick and hypocritical power grab by the satraps in the state government to stamp out any fun that they can’t put a tax on and it’s time to put a stop to it.

As an aside, how does a vice cop live with themselves? As Doug Stanhope points out, their sole purpose in life is to ruin the party. That’s what they do all day, every day, at their job. It’s what they’re hired for. And if they can afford to hire them, we’re obviously being overtaxed. And remember, the same people who support this kind of thing will also blather endlessly about the wonders of the free market and personal responsibility. They don’t really believe in those things, it’s just empty rhetoric. What they really believe in is using the power of the state to make sure that others aren’t having fun in ways they disapprove of. And I’m fed up with it. Let’s defund their sick little game and tell them to police their own lives and keep their hands off of ours.


  1. #1 carpundit
    April 29, 2005

    Wow. That sounded angry. I think you went a bit far, though. I agree that the use of significant state police resources to investigate this VFW game is a waste. But the cops didn’t write the law, and the cops didn’t go looking for the problem. Someone complained. The law itself may be badly-conceived, but it’s on the books. Should the police ignore complaints of criminality because they don’t think much of the law, or should the law be changed? The latter, obviously.

    As for vice cops only ruining the party, I think you sell them short. Prostitution, because it is unlawful, is an ugly, dangerous, and often violent business tied into organized crime and drug trafficking. Gambling is a huge source of income for the mafia, which also runs drugs and loan sharking, and murder for hire. Vice cops do more than ruin parties. They fight real crime, with real victims.

    Sure, the VFW game is harmless. But the weekly game in the back room at the sports bar being run by Vinny -a soldier who kicks up a percentage to his capo- is a criminal enterprise feeding profit to hard-core criminals.

    Solution: change the law. That law you quoted (MCLS section 750.301) is badly drawn and very broad. It has been held to prohibit friendly games with no cut to the house (See Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney v 46th Judicial Dist. Judge (1977) 76 Mich App 318, 256 NW2d 776). That’s bad law today – it criminalizes common, accepted conduct.

    How about criticizing the law instead of the people who are paid to enforce it?

  2. #2 spyder
    April 29, 2005

    Ed–the attached link goes to a story that is equally as egregious, if not more so–


  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    April 29, 2005

    Well yes, it is angry. And yes, the fault lies with the legislature that passes the law. But all of the examples you mentioned are only dangerous because they’re criminal, as I’m sure you’ll agree. So legalize them all and get the government out of the business of regulating our private choices.

  4. #4 Steve Howell
    April 29, 2005

    Ironic. Here in Hawaii organized gambling is illegal–no casinos, lottery, or video poker. I like it that way. However, poker games like you describe are perfectly legal, as long as there is _no_ house take.

  5. #5 dave
    April 29, 2005

    sounds like par for the course. personally i have never seen a police officer intervene in anything i consider a crime (murder, robbery, etc.)

    has anyone else ever seen a cop do the (legitimate) part of their job? i would really like to know.

  6. #6 GeneralZod
    April 29, 2005

    Ed, that did sound very angry. And rightfully so. At the risk of stating the obvious, if ANYone should get a free pass to bend the law with an ILLEGAL* poker game, it should be those who risked their lives defending the country. I know putting a yellow “Support Our Troops” sticker on your car is the very best way to honor our veterans, but maybe, just maybe (and I’m just thinking out loud here people), we could let them have their poker game.

    *reminds me of Caddyshack: “Oh Danny’s a employee of the club, he couldn’t be involved something so ILLEGAL.”
    (I guess those vets just don’t want their caddy scholarships very much, do they?)

  7. #7 spyder
    April 29, 2005

    It is interesting that where prostitution and gambling are legal, where most of the blue laws of the nineteenth and early twentieth century have been removed from the books, there is less crime, and less involvement of organized crime. This reminds me of the time(decades ago) i was asked to research and recommend for removal some of the blue laws from the various LA County codes that pertained to public use of the beach. I thought they, the bosses, were kidding, but sure enough, after i began my research, i found a whole host of laws, rules, regulations that were being necessarily ignored by law enforcement and other agencies. Many of these were removed, but some we kept, ostensibly to be used in case other efforts could not solve the “problem” whatever that might be.

    I think that is the case here. Keeping poorly written, ambiguous, vaguely interpreted laws such as this illegal gaming ordinance enables and empowers law enforcement personnel to interdict in things that become personal for their hierarchy. The people who are enforcing such a code are choosing to do so; they could also choose not to do so. The California Highway Patrol teaches each officer that given the more than 1000 code violations applicable to a person operating a vehicle, every driver is a potential stop. Why do they not stop them all? Why does the State not change the laws?

  8. #8 carpundit
    April 30, 2005


    I’ll do you one better. I have been/ a cop doing the legitimate part of my job.

    And if you only consider violent felonies (murder, robbery, etc.) to be crimes, can I feel free to steal your car, take your laptop from a public place, and smoke crack on the sidewalk in front of your house?


  9. #9 GeneralZod
    April 30, 2005

    BUT: the vets gambling is a victimless crime … “like punching a guy in the dark.”

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