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Seniors Fight City After Gambling Ban Shuts Down Poker Game

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A group of seniors in Washington state is pushing back against the state Gambling Commission's decision to shut down their nickel-and-dime card games at a local senior center due to local ban on card games with money.

Seniors at the 650-member Snohomish Senior Center had been playing illegally since 2009, when the city council banned "social" card games, The Everett Herald reported.

Unaware the ordinance applied to them, the seniors continued to play poker, bridge, pinochle and other games for cash. In December, the Gambling Commission shut down their game with a letter informing them the games were illegal and needed to end, according to the report.

"It's a crying shame," Don Ness, an 84-year-old poker player told the newspaper. "It keeps your brain going."

Last month, the city council rejected a measure to exempt the seniors from the ban, the Herald reported. Council members modified the decision two weeks later to allow nonprofits to play in leased or owned spaces until April 30.

Some are calling for the city's prohibition on so-called "social card games" to be permanently lifted.

Bob Dvorak, the center's executive director, told Q13Fox.com that the center provides important outreach to a segment of the community that often finds itself alone.

"It keeps them from being isolated," Dvorak said "They're in for the nutritious meal and they have social skills; they see their friends, they see the staff."

Dvorak told the station that if seniors can't play for pennies, they might not come at all.

"We want them in a safe, fun environment where they're surrounded by their friends and colleagues," Dvorak said.

Ness, who continues to play in spite of the commission's warning, told KIRO Radio he hopes that by drawing attention to the issue, the city will eventually overturn the ban.

"There's so much more going on than just working on the poor retired folks, I think," Ness said. "It's a sad deal. I mean it's a crime you know, gee whiz. It seems like it gets harder for seniors all the time."

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