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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Freedom for Those Charged in Canada Poker Bust

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Last May, Winnipeg police conducted a series of raids dubbed Project Kaleidoscope throughout the city, in hopes of busting illegal cash poker games in Canada.

The bust resulted in 68 people being charged, most of them with the offense of being in a gaming house. On Friday, February 8th, many of those charged were in court facing the judge.

The first person before the bench was Neil Faderon, who pleaded guilty to the charge of being found in a common gaming house, the Barca Club.

Judge Rocky Pollack, who heard the case, granted Faderon an absolute discharge of the charges against him. The ruling means no sentence and no criminal record for Faderon, providing he stays out of trouble for a year.

Faderon who is 27, was a part-time poker dealer at the Barca Club in Osborne Village. On the night of the raid however, he was simply there as a player. According to Faderon, he was participating in a tournament for charity, for which the club held a charitable license. When he busted out of the tournament, he took a seat in a cash game where the house took a rake.

A business student at Red River College, Faderon told the judge that ever since the bust, he no longer plays poker, “"I actually haven't played since that night. I haven't touched cards," he said.

The Crown's recommendation of a discharge with conditions was ignored by Judge Pollack, and he set Faderon free when he stated “I don't see where the public interest would demand that I grant you anything but an absolute discharge." After he was set free, Faderon said. “From day one I felt that my arrest was a waste of time."

Also pleading guilty to being in a gaming house, was Rellen Orcullo, who was the dealer in the game Faderon was playing in at the time of the bust. A divorced mother of two, Orcullo testified she did not get paid to deal and ran the kitchen at the Barca Club. She claimed she only dealt the poker games to keep customers there so they would buy food from her kitchen.

Orcullo was granted a four month conditional discharge by Judge Pollack, meaning if she doesn’t get into any legal trouble during that time, her discharge becomes absolute. Pollack said he had to give Orcullo a different sentence in order to distinguish between dealers and players.

Most of the 68 people busted in the raids have chosen to participate in a Salvation Army positive lifestyles course. After completion of the course, their charges will be stayed.

A few of those charged have decided to fight their charges and go to trial. Their trial will not take place until after those who are charged with running the games face the judge, which is scheduled for March and April.

Initially, after the bust last May, David Guttman, who represented several of the people 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," said Guttman.

Manitoba law states that only charities and religious groups can profit from poker tournaments and that these tournaments must have a license to operate.

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