Seniors Gambling for Toilet Paper? Thank Heavens the Government Is Here to Stop It!

Who knows what sort of slippery slope could result?


Double-ply? That bumps it up to a felony.
Credit: Dean Hochman / photo on flickr

Consider this just another version of the regular "Officials Force Kids to Shut Down Lemonade Stand" story coming from other end of the life experiences spectrum. Periodically government officials step in to screw with the older folks in small communities for the crime of having fun in unapproved fashions. Typically this means low-stakes casual gambling. How low? This low:

Two or three days a week, 88-year-old Berylda Wilson and her friends get together to play euchre at the Delaware County Senior Citizens Center.

But because they pay a couple of bucks to play and take home prizes like packs of cookies or toilet paper, they're breaking Indiana law — and state officials have ordered an end to the illegal gambling.

The Indiana Gaming Commission last week contacted officials of the senior center — where the most common regular activities, besides euchre, include bridge and line dancing — and told them the pay-for-play must stop.

This was in Muncie, Indiana, reported by The Star Press. It is obvious that nobody is in this for the prizes. The center itself takes in about $30 from three hours of play per session. But it's not government permitted gambling! It must be stopped. If these folks want to gamble legally they should do it the right way, by going to a facility fully authorized by the friendly government there to protect us all.

Hey! Wouldn't you know it? Hoosier Park, a race track and casino, is in nearby Anderson, just 30 minutes away! They provide hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the state and the county, but we assure you there's absolutely no relationship between this petty enforcement of gambling laws against a tiny group of elderly people and an inherently corrupt system of government-granted gaming monopolies. We just want to make sure that none of these elderly folks are being cheated out door prizes because a government-approved representative is not keeping an eye on them. And a bonus: REO Speedwagon!

These stories happen as frequently as those lemonade stand busts. There's often a similar burst of outrage, but it fades pretty quickly. The heavy hand of government gambling protectionism can also interfere with community service groups attempting to raise money for charity. Here, for example, is a list of all the absurd hoops a Rotary Club in California has to jump through to have a raffle that complies with state law.

In other Reason coverage, here's Jacob Sullum noting a similar crackdown on petty gambling games played by the elderly in Washington state. And stepping all over everybody's fun, a poorly written anti-gambling ordinance in Florida has threatened the future of claw machines and any sort of redemption game there.

NEXT: Scott Walker Ready to Start a War on 'Day One' of His Presidency; Jeb Bush the Voice of 'Maturity'

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  1. What?! They didn’t get SWATed?!

    1. Well, there’s this about SWATing senior citizens; some of them are likely to be WWII and Korea Vets, and unlike the Baby Boomer sheep, they might actually do something about armed nutters breaking into their homes.

  2. I guess it’s back to strip poker then.

    1. They’re legally required to play euchre in Indiana, though.

      1. But not for luchre.

    2. I’m turning blind just thinking about “senior citizen strip poker”

      1. Probably best not to google “Senior STD rates” then.

      2. My eyes!! It burns!!!

      3. All those birthday suits need pressing and starching…

  3. The never-answered question still stands: Who turned them in?

    1. My guess is some busybody child of one of the people who live there. My guess is that he’s middle management at the casino the article discusses.

  4. I thought this was about Venezuala

    1. It’s our attempt to arrive there.

      1. We’re all Venezuela now.

        1. “Joo undercook chicken? Jail. Overcook fish? Joo right to jail. See? Undercook/overcook.”

    2. Venezuela has a progressive slot game with a pack of Charmin as the grand prize.

      “We don’t need no stinkin’ Dodge Viper!”

  5. I don’t want to know what makes the slope slippery, especially now that the gov is confiscating toilet paper.

  6. Is this part of the culture war?

  7. Isn’t living in Muncie, Indiana punishment enough for this unbridled hedonism?

  8. And a bonus: REO Speedwagon!

    That is not a bonus; it’s a penaltax!

  9. No self-respecting Mafia crew would not allow an independent poker game on its turf.

    Why would a government allow such disrespect? The geezers should be thankful that a SWAT team didn’t flash-bang them.

  10. There are so many coincidental Parks & Rec references in this thread, my head may assplode.

  11. I think the elders must thank their stars that a SWAT team was not used for this purpose and they did not shoot couple of old people down.

  12. When I first saw the headline, I thought they might be using sheets as chips. Which would only be slightly more low-rent than using a roll as the grand prize.

  13. This really is emblematic of the idiocy behind government morality laws. The whole point of anti-gambling laws, at least in CA, was to prevent “saloon culture” (hotels with gambling/alcohol/prostitution) from taking hold, like it did in Nevada. It was never about stopping small-time private games and charity events.

    Once CA caved in to the casino money, they started putting up billboards to the effect of “Don’t risk breaking the law with that at-home for-cash poker game, come to the casino where it’s legal!”

    Now PTAs and Rotary Clubs need to watch their backs, while new casinos spring up everywhere.

    Meanwhile, is there still even any rationalization at all for keeping gambling illegal *outside* of casinos? What moral hazard are we looking to prevent here?

    1. revenue loss = less money for the children

      There’s your moral hazard!


    2. Supposedly the casinos keep the game clean, while your friends & neighbors may cheat you. However, when gambling for tissue is the issue, the notion of keeping it clean changes subtly.

      (Would you have preferred, “…toilet paper is the caper…”?)

  14. These are the libertarian moments we need. Because it’s the little infringements on Liberty that finally cause people to reach their tipping point.

    Somebody needs to propose a bill legalizing this type of activity.* Then we can incrementally take back our rights.

    *i know it shouldn’t come to “legalizing” what should never be te governments business but it has and we must use the system in place to set things straight.

  15. I am loosely affiliated with a organization that does fundraising. Every couple of years, somebody comes up with some brilliant idea about a raffle or casino night or something. Every time, the two lawyers on the organization board have to remind everybody that’s not legal, and we ain’t doing that.

    Oh, yeah, what’s the organization do with all the money? Gives out scholarships. Yup, can’t do that because… I’m drawing a blank here.

    1. Most states have allowances for this kind of gambling as a non-profit fundraiser.

      Believe it or not [looks nervously around], not everything lawyers say is actually right.

  16. Sounds like those seniors’ plans

    [dons Fist’s sunglasses]

    …took a dump.

  17. I remember back in the early 1970’s when the Ohio State Lottery was first proposed, my Mother was against it because she didn’t see how the State could run a lottery and at the same time oppose legal gambling. She predicted that lotteries would be followed by the spread of casino gambling, and that the State governments would become dependent on the revenue. When challenged she said she would rather see legal gambling, and the State completely out of it.

  18. Have we completely lost our balls? Where is the civil disobedience? The jails should be chock full of seniors by now. What is there to lose? The food couldn’t possibly be any worse.

  19. Hey, doesn’t Indiana have a lotto? They can mosey down the the local liquor store and wager to their heart’s content!

  20. The old ladies should call the cops bluff — would they actually dare come in, bust up the games, and haul them all away given that the operation is guaranteed to be caught on cell-phone video and uploaded to youtube?

  21. The old ladies should call the cops bluff — would they actually dare come in, bust up the games, and haul them all away given that the operation is guaranteed to be caught on cell-phone video and uploaded to youtube?

  22. Here in South Carolina it’s illegal to play any game with cards or dice, for money or not. Playing monopoly or Old Maid is actually illegal here. And we’re a deep red state….democrats are totalitarians, republicans are democrats with bibles.

    1. The only association I’ve ever had for the town was from my hot-rodding days; the rock-crusher:
      (from the site: ” These units come with a 12 month warrantee and yes, we know how they are going to be driven.”)
      The syncros are strong enough that slap-shifting was easy even for a hot-rod kid.

  23. Now I know why Obama wants to take their guns away.

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