Republican congressional candidate explains his poker tournaments

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Republican Rick Barber is very up front with the fact that he advertised and allowed poker tournaments at the DeJa Vu pool hall just about every night.

Around 20 people would play, taking a chance on winning an average pot of $400.00

"This is a bunch of folks getting together just like you would at home," said Barber.

Therein lies the rub.

"The law does not condemn an individual who has a social game in the home," said Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks.

Rick Barber's place is not a home but very much an established business, a pool hall complete with food and alcohol, advertised Texas Hold'em poker tournaments since 2003.

Brooks who initially received a complaint from a retired law enforcement officer says based on a 2007 ruling by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in a similar case.. Mr. Barber violated gambling laws. In this case what Brooks says is a misdemeanor.

"And it (the ruling) held that Texas Hold'em was in fact a game of chance and whatever skill was used it did not override that chance factor, so therefore it was gambling," said Brooks.

Even though Rick Barber says he didn't take one dime from any poker winnings, he does admit his business probably benefited indirectly in the way of food and alcohol sales.

"The money made off that is nowhere near to what people are insinuating. Maybe 6% if that much," said Barber.

There is another odd twist to this story. Rick Barber says he had no problem terminating the poker games once Ellen Brooks informed him of the 2007 court ruling but insists a law enforcement agency said it was 'okay.' Barber claims he got the green light, the go-ahead from the ABC Board, specifically agent Richard Holston.

"As long as you're not profiting from it, it's not wrong. We got the same answer yesterday from the ABC Board," said Barber.

WSFA 12 News tried to get in touch with Mr. Holston. The ABC Board told 12 News Holston worked the night shift and board attorney Bob Hill said 'I don't know what was said and I would have no way of getting in touch with him.'

As for Rick Barber he says he no longer has poker tournaments at the DeJa Vu and continues his run-off race in the Republican primary, calling this no more than a little 'political distraction.'

Barber by the way will not face any charges, according to Brooks, because that retired officer withdrew his complaint on the same day he filed reportedly because of health issues.

Also, Brooks says their initial investigation turned up no evidence of poker.

Brooks, meantime, sent letters today to local law enforcement agencies including the ABC Board reminding them of what the law says and to be on the look out for businesses that might be hosting poker tournaments.

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