A Royal Newfoundland Constabulary decision not to lay charges against bar owners who run organized poker games in St. John's is irritating a Corner Brook man who landed in trouble with the law over the very same thing.
The RNC announced last week it would not pursue criminal charges involving St. John's companies.
But Ervin Mitchelmore, who was charged with running a gaming house when a Texas hold 'em tournament was shut down in 2006 at his Union Street Bar and Billiards, said penalties appear not to be applied evenly, and that the RNC's position on the issue is confusing.
"In Corner Brook, we didn't do nothing compared to what is being done in St. John's and [has] been done for the last three years," Mitchelmore told CBC News.
"We're the ones [who] got penalized for everything, and they still can't give me no straight answers on nothing."
Mitchelmore wound up getting a conditional sentence in the case, meaning he has no criminal record.
CBC News asked the RNC to explain why poker charges were laid in Corner Brook, but not St. John's.
"The simple answer is, it would depend. It would depend on the game," said Const. Paul Davis.
Asked to specify, Davis said, "Texas hold 'em, and the operation of Texas hold 'em, have many, many different aspects, and you have to look at all of them in totality before you can make a decision whether a game is legal or illegal."
Davis revealed one criterion that would make a game illegal: if a bar takes a cut of the money on the table.
"The operators in St. John's, [according to] our understanding, have changed how they operate their games to try and come into a game that would be consistent with the law," Davis said.
Davis said if people still have questions they should talk to a lawyer.
But Mitchelmore said that advice did not do him any good. He said a lawyer advised him that his tournament was legal, and he was still charged.