State shutters Snookers’ Poker Room in Utica indefinitely

By: Brad D. Bates | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 11, 2013

UTICA — The state of Michigan has told Snookers’ Poker Room in Utica to hold ‘em, but the state’s largest charitable poker room isn’t ready to fold ‘em or walk away.

The state’s Gaming Control Board essentially closed the doors on Snookers’, located at 5100 Northpointe Blvd., near Hall Road and the M-53 Expressway, Dec. 20 by halting all licenses to charities wishing to host events at the poker room.

“What happens is the charities have to get the license to come there, and what (the state) did was stop giving them the license,” Snookers’ owner Don Wawrzyniak said.

“They never told us; they just started pulling the licenses from the charities, and they never even told us,” Wawrzyniak added. “We had scheduled events for this whole year. Charities were fighting to get in our place because we do a good job and we’re the best around.”

Executive Director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board Richard Kalm said through an email that his department would not comment on the suspension of activities at Snookers’ or the investigation, because it is ongoing.

“We have 120 employees who were put out of work,” Wawrzyniak said. “We had to lay them off five days before Christmas, and we had 225 charities in there last year and we made a lot of money for those charities.”

“We did it for a lot of police, the Clinton Township honor guard was in four times a year, and we had a lot of police officers working there,” Wawrzyniak added. “They have to man (the events), so we’ve had plenty of those guys in there.”

Wawrzyniak said his business was closed because of an investigation dating as far back as August 2010, but he said the only evince of any wrongdoing that he has been given was through his own admission.

“We’re waiting for their investigation to get done and see the report,” Wawrzyniak said. “They’re interviewing charities, and we’re confident they’re not going to find anything wrong, other than what we admitted to.

“They sent something to the charities saying stuff, and none of that’s been proven,” Wawrzyniak added. “We admitted to one thing, but they haven’t shown us proof of anything else.”

Wawrzyniak said he told officials that his business had broken the rule of a $15,000 per night limit on chip sales.

According to Wawrzyniak, the chip sales at Snookers’ exceeded the state limit because there was in excess of 10 charities hosting events on a given day.

He also said the antiquity of the limit, which dates back to 1972 and is part of law commonly referred to as the Bingo Act, played a part.

“We were going to 12 charities to stay within their limit, and the limit they have was passed in 1972, and that limit is way outdated,” Wawrzyniak said, noting that the number of 12 charities was down from 15.

The infringement of the $15,000 limit was done because, Wawrzyniak said, if they had not, it would have meant closing early, which would have been bad for the charities and business.

“We would have had to close the games down,” Wawrzyniak said. “We probably would have been closed at 10 or 11. We would have had to close early, and the charities would have made a lot less money, and the players would have stopped coming in.

“When you’ve lost, everyone wants the chance to get back in and win it. And if we tell them, ‘No, you can’t, because we don’t have any chips to sell,’ they’re not going to come back.”

Wawrzyniak believes that his business, which would have celebrated its fourth anniversary Jan. 15, was targeted by the state because of its size and success.

“We are the largest poker room in the state of Michigan … and I think we riled a few feathers because of how good we’re doing and how big we’re getting,” Wawrzyniak said. “The thing that put us on the radar was because of how big we were.”

Wawrzyniak said the staff at Snookers’, which is not affiliated with Snookers’ Pool and Pub locations in Eastpointe and Livonia, has been compliant in the investigation, and he hopes that will help for a speedy resolution to the investigation and halt on business.

“They put the suspension on, and they won’t tell us how long or when it will stop,” Wawrzyniak said. “They’ve had us down for about 45 (days).

“I’m down at the (Michigan Gaming Control Board) once or twice a week. And I call almost daily to cooperate with them, and they still wont give us any directions, and I have no idea how long it could last.”