Out of the game

Olivia Mihalic

University puts foot down on poker and gambling

Kent State recently has decided to enforce a ban on playing poker on campus because of a state law that bans playing games of chance in public places.

Credit: Jason Hall

University officials have cracked down on public poker games, essentially banning them in places such as Eastway Center.

There had been unofficial games Monday and Wednesday nights in the lower lounge of Eastway for the past several years.

Dean of Students Greg Jarvie said the games were against state law.

“We look at it in the simplest terms, by the Ohio Revised Code,” he said. “It’s very clear that you can’t play any game of chance in a public area for money. That’s just the law.”

The law pertains to everything except non-profit organizations such as Kent State’s Blue and Gold Club. Fraternities and sororities are not listed as non-profits, Jarvie said.

The university is concerned with students getting hurt by losing money, he said.

“If you don’t give money, there’s no money to be lost,” he said. “That’s the difference.”

Jarvie said the university moved to ban the games this fall because some students have brought it to his attention this semester.

Eastway Center employees also said the games had become disruptive at times.

“They were OK, but then they started giving us a hard time, staying a little late,” said Will Miles, an employee at the Eastway Market about the tournaments in the lower lounge. “They just had to stop.”

Some students called managers names when asked to disband and wouldn’t leave until 4 or 5 a.m., said Harold Nash, manager of the lower level of Eastway Center.

“Eastway has never said that they (students) could play poker,” Nash said. “They have never had our blessing.”

The games could even cause fights, said Andrew Gaug, another Eastway Market employee.

“Some people just got angry at others because they weren’t winning,” Gaug said. “It got pretty close to actual fist fights.”

Jeremy Holstein, sophomore flight technology major, had played in the Eastway tournaments and said the tournaments were entertaining and fun. He said he understands the university has to follow state law, but he doesn’t see the harm in the games.

“Nobody is making a profit besides the winner of the game,” Holstein said. “It isn’t a casino. It’s just for fun. Money just makes it more competitive.”

Sophomore business major Greg Tomaselli, another Eastway poker regular, said he doesn’t think breaking up the games is unfair.

“I understand why the university would shut it down,” Tomaselli said. “It may cause the school to have a bad reputation or not send a good message to people.”

The rules affect only public places. Students can play in their rooms and other private places for money.

“That maybe limits the size of the game, but technically, you’re allowed to do that,” Jarvie said.

Jarvie said he doesn’t think the whole issue needs to be such a big deal.

“I think in some ways, it has been blown way out of proportion,” Jarvie said. “They should not be playing at Eastway, and Harold (Nash) and any other manager should be breaking it up.”

Nash said his superiors have broken up numerous games. Sometimes, Eastway employees said, players became belligerent. But eventually the games were broken up, and they recently seemed to disband on their own, Nash said.

Jarvie emphasized that the university was simply following the law.

“The last thing I would want to do would be arrest someone for playing poker,” he said, “but if it comes to that, (I will).”

Contact on-campus entertainment reporter Olivia Mihalic at [email protected].