Professional Poker player Josh Thatcher sentenced for running illegal gambling operation in Michigan

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Professional poker player, Joshua T. Thatcher has been sentenced to 12 months of probation after pleading guilty to one felony count of Gambling Operations for his role operating an illegal poker room in Michigan.

The offending poker room was known as 906 Poker Social, formerly located at 1200 S. Front St., Marquette. Thatcher received a reduced sentence as part of his plea agreement he agreed to forfeit to the State of Michigan all items seized from the location. Items included six poker tables, over $13,000 in cash and other money held in associated bank accounts.

The poker club was widely advertised in the media, where Thatcher would describe 906 Poker Social as ‘a private membership club’ where members gambled against each other and thus were outside the remit of the Michigan Gaming Control Board. Thatcher would charge members a fee based on weekly, monthly or yearly membership plus a $10 per hour chair rental fee. 906 Poker Social offered mainly poker but also ‘other games’.

The club was open for just over 3 months, opening on April 1st 2021, and closing on July 8th, 2021.

What did the prosecutors say?

“Unregulated gambling operations do not offer Michigan residents the same protections provided through legal, regulated gambling,” said Henry Williams, executive director, Michigan Gaming Control Board. “The Michigan Gaming Control Board’s mission is to ensure fair and honest gaming in Michigan, and we partner with the Michigan Department of Attorney General to investigate and eliminate illegal gaming activities across the state.”

“My office remains committed to upholding business rules and regulations, and that includes our state’s gambling laws,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “I appreciate the work the Michigan Gaming Control Board has done to protect Michigan residents and businesses.”

Thatcher was also charged in May 2022 with five other felony counts The other counts were later dismissed. The Michigan Gaming Control Board posts a Bulletin on Illegal Gaming and a fact sheet on illegal gaming-unregulated gaming machines.

How big is gambling in Michigan overall?

Michigan is a state which permits most, if not all types of gambling under its well regulated licensing regime. Michigan’s commercial and tribal internet casino gaming and internet sports betting operators reported a staggering $1.98 billion total gross receipts in 2022 rising 41% compared with $1.4 billion in receipts reported in 2021.

Total handle for the year in 2022 reported was $4.6 billion, up from the $3.7 billion reported in 2021. Tribal and commercial operators, all under the guidance of the Michigan Gaming Control Board made contributions to the State of Michigan of over $300 million, broken down as follows:

  • Internet gaming state taxes and payments: $289.24 million
  • Internet sports betting taxes and payments: $13.74 million

Ollie is an experienced writer covering everything from esports to regulatory developments in the USA. He loves obscure data points and the occasional lousy parlay on 20 tennis players which inevitably loses.

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