Poker raid nets ex-chief of police

By ANSLEE WILLETT and R. SCOTT RAPPOLD THE GAZETTE Updated: April 28, 2005 at 12:00 am • Published: April 28, 2005
PALMER LAKE - A former Monument police chief and a Palmer Lake Town Council member were among 23 people arrested Tuesday in a gambling raid at a Mexican restaurant. Al Karn, 69, and Tricia Flake, 34, were served summonses on suspicion of professional gambling, a misdemeanor, in connection with Texas Hold ’em poker at Guadala-Jarra in Palmer Lake. “It was an unfortunate event, and everybody there was good citizens in the community,” Flake said Wednesday. “If any one of us had known it was illegal or even borderline, none of us would have even been there.” “It’s a real crock,” said Karn, who retired as chief in 1998 and then served a term on the Monument Town Council. “We’re talking about a $15 buy-in. That’s supposed to be professional gambling?” “If I wanted to do something illegal, I would have gotten a bigger game than that,” Karn said. Also arrested was restaurant owner Jeff Hulsmann, 48, who is heading the fundraising effort to fill Palmer Lake. Another arrest is pending. Hulsmann denied breaking the law, saying he merely allowed customers to play poker at his restaurant. “The restaurant took no money,” said Hulsmann, who also owns O-Malley’s Steak Pub. “We don’t think it’s illegal.” Mark Wilson, director of the Colorado Division of Gaming, said the Tuesday-night card games in the restaurant’s bar were illegal because players paid $15 to play. Texas Hold ’em and other poker games have exploded in popularity among amateur card players and at bars during the past few years. “They’ve become more common since the craze of televised poker tournaments,” said Don Burmania, a spokesman for the Division of Gaming. “Although the games are commonplace, this type of arrest is not common.” Card games are allowed at bars, even those in which money is at stake, if the players have a relationship beyond gambling and the money goes to the winner with no one taking a cut for running the game. All those arrested are accused of a misdemeanor except Hulsmann. He is accused of a felony because he operated an establishment where liquor is served and illegal gambling was taking place, authorities said. The Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division will determine whether Hulsmann’s license should be revoked or suspended. The 23 people arrested ranged in age from 19 to 69. They came from Palmer Lake, Monument and Colorado Springs. Hulsmann was jailed Tuesday and posted a $1,000 bond. The others were served summonses to appear in court. The arrests came after a monthlong investigation headed by the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence Unit, which includes El Paso County sheriff’s deputies. The investigation began after a Palmer Lake official told Town Marshal Dale Smith she saw people gambling at Guadala-Jarra. Smith said the rumor on the streets was if gamblers didn’t want to go to casino towns, they could head to Palmer Lake instead. Authorities said people drove from as far away as 150 miles to play at the restaurant and that the games were advertised on a poker Web site. “Patrons entering the establishment were approached and asked if they wanted to play,” Colorado Springs police Lt. Tish Olszewski said. Hulsmann said the card games began in December after customers asked if they could use the restaurant. “The games have gotten bigger. People have brought friends up,” he said. “They are just a bunch of guys who want to play poker. The restaurant has nothing to do with that.” The arrests were made about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday after police served a search warrant at the restaurant and officers found people playing Texas Hold ’em at three tables, Olszewski said. Hulsmann said no one told him the games might be illegal and he should put a stop to it. “Everybody who walks in here sees the games,” he said. “They have blown this so far out of proportion. They went to a home game to make their big sting of the month.” Matt Cook, state liquor enforcement director, called the case one of the most flagrant investigators have seen. “This was professional gambling. . . . This was not just a group of friends getting together,” Cook said. Karn, the former police chief, said authorities should have just told Hulsmann what they were doing was considered illegal. He was playing for the third week in a row — and doing well. “That’s one thing that irritates me: I was leading the table when they broke it up,” he said. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0366 or awillett@gazette.com LEGAL GAMBLING The Colorado Division of Gaming gets daily calls from people asking what kind of gambling is legal. Gambling is legal in Colorado at casinos, charitable bingo and raffles, and horse and dog tracks. Social gambling also is legal. For gambling to be considered social gambling, the people involved must have a relationship outside of gambling and all the money in the game must be awarded in prizes, meaning no one can take a cut for running the game. Pools on sporting events are legal at workplaces because they’re considered social gambling: the people know each other and all of the money goes to a winner or winners. More information: www.revenue. state.co.us/Gaming/home.asp
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