Poker tournament controversy in Knox County

Poker tournament controversy in Knox County, some dealers say they've been forced to stop

Posted:
We've confirmed the poker tournaments have been stopped at Bucket Head Tavern, Stillhouse Tavern and Bailey' Sports Grille, all in Knox County. We've confirmed the poker tournaments have been stopped at Bucket Head Tavern, Stillhouse Tavern and Bailey' Sports Grille, all in Knox County.
Paul Zolkowski ran the poker tournaments at Bailey's Sports Grille for the past ten years but he says he was forced to stop three months ago. Paul Zolkowski ran the poker tournaments at Bailey's Sports Grille for the past ten years but he says he was forced to stop three months ago.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Are popular poker tournaments at local bars and restaurants going to be a thing of the past? Concerns from people in the community have many wondering why some local games are no longer going on.

We've confirmed the poker tournaments have been stopped at Bucket Head Tavern, Stillhouse Tavern and Bailey' Sports Grille, all in Knox County.

Two poker tournament dealers say the sheriff's office says the poker games are illegal. Paul Zolkowski ran the poker tournaments at Bailey's Sports Grille for the past ten years but he says he was forced to stop three months ago. Zolkowski says he doesn't understand what changed or exactly what was done wrong. He is hoping for answers so the poker tournament can return to Bailey's. 

"Someone with the sheriff's department walked into Bailey's and told Bailey's what they are doing was illegal and it needed to stop," said Zolkowski.

Zolkowski says no one paid or risked anything to play in the poker tournaments.

"At the end they would get gift cards from Bailey's or different prizes that they could win from Bailey's but they didn't have to pay to get in. People enjoyed just getting together enjoying a common interest," said Zolkowski.

We asked Assistant District Attorney Sean McDermott how gambling is defined in Tennessee.

"If you risk something that's worth something to you and whether or not you win is based on chance, that's gambling," said McDermott.

Dermott says the sheriff's office has been investigating vice crimes lately like illegal gambling.

"I've known of occasions where they go in and tell the bar owner, ‘If I come back and I see this activity going on we are going to have a different conversation. I'm going to take your chips and your tables with me,'" said McDermott.

Lewis Leach has been a poker dealer at both the Bucket Head Tavern and the Still House Tavern. Both businesses tell 6 News they stopped their poker tournaments last week.

"The Knox County Sheriff came in and said what we are doing is illegal and if we continue they are going to shut down the bar," said Leach.

Leach says no one pays to play in the poker tournaments and that it's all within the law. Despite the dealers saying that the Knox County Sheriff's Office has been giving them verbal warnings, the sheriff's office tells 6 News that no games have been shut down and no citations have been issued for illegal gambling.

Sheriff J.J. Jones issued a statement saying, "If these establishments follow the laws of the General Assembly and the State of Tennessee, then they will not have to worry about any visits from the Knox County Sheriff's Office."

The dealers say they don't want illegal gambling going on in Tennessee either, but they want to know how to have legal poker tournaments.

"I wish that they would just make a simple form that dealers would have to follow to run a tournament in public," said Zolkowski.

The dealers say they want law enforcement to help them understand why some establishments were told their poker game activities were illegal, while the same poker tournaments are still being held in other businesses across the county.

The Sheriff's Office is not releasing much information, but says no poker games have recently been forced to shut down.

Powered by WorldNow

1306 N. Broadway NE Knoxville,
Tennessee 37917

Telephone: 865.637.NEWS(6397)
Fax: 865.525.4091
Email: newsroom@wate.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Young Broadcasting of Knoxville, Inc. A Media General Company.