FLINT (WJRT) -- (03/10/10) -- The Poker Room at Fisher Hall in Flint has been shut down by the state.
Lottery officials say the action comes because of a scheme that overcharged charities for services at the hall.
Poker Room owner Henry Tennenbaum claims the charges are unwarranted, and the closure will end up costing local charities tens of thousands of dollars.
The Poker Room has been operating for four or five years, with most of the large charitable organizations in Genesee County bringing in money from the millionaire parties held here.
It was closed down Tuesday night, lottery officials say, because of a scheme by the owner where he was charging the charities more than allowed by charitable gaming guidelines.
"That scheme was that I asked the licensees (of) the games to pay the pit bosses their expense. The charities, it was their expense anyway. It wasn't the hall owner's expense," Tennenbaum said.
Tennenbaum maintains that the Lottery Commission has been after him for years because the poker room, which operates much like a casino, was highly profitable and mostly unregulated.
When the state forced him to move to a system where he was paid by sharing the profits with the charities, Tennenbaum says he passed on the dealer fees to the charities. Sometimes those fees put a charity's expenditures over 50 percent of revenues.
Unfortunately, he says, closing the Poker Room may have the opposite effect the Lottery Commission had hoped.
"For me it's not such a financial loss. For the charities, it's devastating. In fact, that's the calls I'm getting; 'What am I to do?' Well I just heard today from Catholic Outreach. They don't know what they're going to do to make up the money. I talked to the principal at St. Mary's Elementary School. They're all in the same."
Tennenbaum says he agreed to close the Poker Room and pay around $40,000 in fines in exchange for the Lottery Commission's threat to close down his bingo halls.
He still maintains he did nothing illegal and says there's a chance he'll fight both the closure and the fine.