Winnipeg police conducted a series of raids throughout the city in May. The object of these raids was to bust illegal cash games in Canada. These raids were dubbed “Project Kaleidoscope, and once it was all said and done, illegal games were shut down at the Bari Club on Corydon Avenue and the Barca Club on McMillan Avenue. In addition, police officers also raided Shooters Billiard Lounge on Pembina Highway and a condominium where one of the game’s organizers lived.
Six people were charged with keeping a common gaming house (hosting poker games) and 57 people were arrested for being present during these poker games. If convicted, these players could face up to six months in jail.
At least 30 poker players took the Manitoba Justice System up on a controversial plea bargain. They will be obligated to enroll in a “positive lifestyles” program through the Salvation Army and once the program is completed, the Crown will drop all charges.
Initially, David Guttman who represented several people who were charged, said many of the accused individuals were under the impression that all charges would be dropped. Most of them actually came to court without representation.
"Even a number of ones that were represented, I think, were hopeful that they would leave the courtroom without any further requirement to come back," he said.
"I think a lot of people felt that they would be told they could just go home and the Crown would not be proceeding with charges against them. And they were surprised to find out that the Crown is proceeding."
Manitoba law states that only charities and religious groups can profit from poker tournaments and that these tournaments must have a license to operate.
Those defendants that took the plea bargain will be expected to return to court once again in February.
More than two dozen others have chosen to fight the charges, all of them without lawyers. A pre-trial date was set for them in January.