No more bucks for crib
Local clubs pull card tournaments off the table for fear of losing their liquor licence
From September to June every year for the past six years, Susan Rochon followed the card tournament circuit around the area.
Sometimes the games were held at the Elk’s Lodge. There were tournaments at Branch 23 of the Royal Canadian Legion and Branch 599 in West Ferris, the 406 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force Association and other service clubs from West Nipissing to Restoule.
“Almost every Sunday there was a crib tournament somewhere,” Rochon said Friday.
“It was a place to go on Sundays. But now all of a sudden I’m stuck at home.”
Local service clubs which had been hosting card tournaments have been told by an Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario inspector they could lose their liquor licences if they continue those tournaments.
“We didn’t know it was illegal,” Larry Ranger, secretary-treasurer of the Elk’s Club in North Bay, says after a visit from the inspector earlier this year.
“We were the first ones involved,” Ranger says. “They told us they were illegal.”
The card tournaments – cribbage, euchre and bridge – are classed as “games of chance,” and are illegal if players are charged a fee to play or awarded prizes.
The games are not recognized by the province as events, which can be licensed.
“There was one going on pretty much every weekend,” Ranger says, with the tournaments being hosted at different venues around the area.
“We did this over six or eight years, and so did everyone else.”
The Elk’s Club, as have others, have stopped the tournaments completely.
The tournaments weren’t big money-makers. Ranger says the Elk’s Club “never made any money on this,” with the entry fees going to pro-rated prizes.
But what is going to hurt, he says, is the loss of 50-50 draws also being held at the tournaments, as well as sales of Nevada tickets.
those events “probably collected $300, $400 at each tournament, and that’s what we gave to the charities.”
Mary Marquette at branch 23 says members and visitors can still play the games, “but they can’t play for money.”
“It was just a pleasant, pleasure for people,” Marquette says. “It wasn’t big money. It was just an enjoyable afternoon.”
and for the Legion as well, there wasn’t a big payoff.
“the ladies auxiliary provided lunch, and that’s what made money.”
but since the visit from the inspector in July, those events have been cancelled.
“We were told that we should get legal advice on it,” Marquette says. “We can’t afford a lawyer. We were told it was illegal and if we continued we could lose our liquor licence.
“We’re not interested in going to jail. I don’t look good in orange.”
“I don’t understand what’s driving it,” says Mark Montgomery, a retired police officer with the North bay Police Service.
“If what they are saying is true, why wait 45 years to say something about it? Why can’t we have it as a licensed event?
Montgomery says the tournaments “provided people – mostly seniors – an afternoon of being out socializing” and generating revenue from food and refreshments to the venue.
“I was with the police for 32 years here and never once did we (the police) go to a venue over these games,” Montgomery says.
“What has changed?” a tournament with 80 to 100 people could bring in $250 in food sales and another $150 in refreshment sales, Montgomery says
Since the tournaments were canned, he says, there might be 20 people out, bringing in $90 in food sales and $25 in refreshment sales.
an agco inspector visited branch 23 on July 24, and advised the branch to seek legal counsel before their crib for bucks event scheduled for aug. 18.
the branch has contacted regional command, which advised all branches to stop the events while it looked into the issue.
Montgomery has sent an e-mail to Nipissing MPP and Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli “with a copy of the Legion letter expressing my concern about what was going on and the impact this would have on the Legions and other organizations.”
Montgomery also contacted the agco, which responded that it “does not regulate tournaments such as cribbage, euchre, etc.
“cribbage is not a licensed game that is recognized by the province or the municipality. card games are not licensable events and we recommend that you seek legal counsel for advice.”
Fedeli referred questions on the issue to the agco.
“I miss it,” rochon says. “Where else can you go on a Sunday afternoon for $10?”
and it wasn’t always about the cards, she says.
“It was the friendship. the laughter,” she says. “they always made you feel welcome. It was the fun part of it. getting to know people, their family, ‘how’s your son?’”
Jamie Broughton, left, Mark Montgomery, Susan Rochon and Tina Montgomery enjoy a friendly game of cribbage, Friday. Local service clubs have been advised that popular card game tournaments are illegal and that if they continue to host them are in danger of losing their liquor licences.