Edward Hill, a 53-year-old former pit supervisor at Bally’s Evansville has been charged with running an illegal poker club. He faces charges of corrupt business influence, professional gambling, and promoting professional gambling. Hill’s alleged criminal operation, Ed’s Poker Club, grew significantly after Indiana casinos shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the casino is back in operation, the legal poker room at the Bally’s property has not reopened.
Hill attracted players through text messages while concealing the nature of the business from others. He told the building’s landlord he was operating a temp agency. The Indiana Gaming Commission received a tip from a confidential source, leading to a raid on Apr 5, 2022. The informant wore a wire, used marked bills, and recorded video evidence of Hill’s involvement in the poker club.
During the raid, police found 16 players participating in the poker games. They questioned and then released the players, including Bally’s dealer Tarkus Dillard who was not believed to be part of the operation. However, the next day police arrested Mark Edge, who allegedly helped to manage the club’s daily operations. Hill and Edge now face up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.
During the raid, authorities seized gaming equipment, records, and $92,540 in cash. Hill’s phone contained over 170,000 messages, many related to the club’s operations.
Another Case Of Illegal Gambling in the Absence of Legal Options
One of the main reasons people frequent underground card rooms like Hill’s is that they lack a legal game. Evansville residents had one at Bally’s (named Tropicana at the time) until it closed due to the pandemic. But even after the property reopened, management left the poker room shuttered, and to this day, there is still no poker being dealt at Bally’s. That has left local poker players without many options, which has driven some to play illegally.
This is similar to how prohibition often fuels illegal gambling. Earlier this year, two men were arrested in Minnesota for an alleged TikTok proxy gambling scheme. One of them would collect bets and gamble on behalf of bettors via TikTok live stream.
In another case on a much larger scale, 11 men were charged in Alabama for running an offshore site called Red44. According to reports, Red44 made an estimated $75 million in profits, equaling millions of lost tax revenue.
These cases are just examples of the many that are happening. All of them prove that people will find a way to gamble. The likelihood of another card room like Hill’s appearing would be lower if Indiana had passed its iGaming bill this year, which included online poker.
Where Does Indiana Stand With Online Poker?
Only seven states have legal online poker. Several others introduced bills this year, including Indiana, where it was part of broader legislation for online casinos. Some gambling experts even believed coming into 2023 that the state was a favorite to legalize online casinos this year.
That effort died, however, with the bill failing to get a hearing before the Feb 21 deadline. This was the Hoosier State’s third try to pass an online casino bill. Unfortunately, some Indiana lawmakers don’t see online casinos as worth considering, despite the prospect of tens of millions in tax revenue.
Bonus projected that online casinos would generate $6.5 billion in gross revenue this year, equating to over $1 billion in state tax revenue. Revenue numbers for January and February show the industry is trailing only a few percent behind that estimate. Indiana’s northern neighbor, Michigan, is now ahead of New Jersey in per capita online casino revenue, which may include some cross-border customers from Indiana.
Although online poker and casinos are out for 2023, there is still some hope for gambling expansion in Indiana. A video gaming terminal bill to benefit veterans’ organizations is still alive and kicking.