Gambling ban stops Snohomish seniors’ card games

SNOHOMISH — The Snohomish City Council has riled up its seniors.

Until last month, people at the 650-member Snohomish Senior Center were illegally gambling. They’ve been at it since 2009, when the City Council banned social card playing games. “They’re sometimes as dumb as a box of rocks,” poker player, Don Ness, 84, said. “I think it’s ridiculous.”

Unaware the rule applied to them, the seniors continued to gamble with nickels, dimes and quarters. Their luck ran out in December when the state Gambling Commission shut down their game with a warning letter, informing the center of the violation.

“It’s a crying shame,” Ness said. “It keeps your brain going.”

The seniors had to give up playing poker, bridge, pinochle and other games for cash.

“We had to start playing for chips but that’s not as much fun,” another player, Kathy Reed, 67, said.

In January, the council voted down a measure to exempt seniors from the ban. It modified the decision two weeks later, allowing nonprofits to play in their leased or owned spaces until April 30.

“It’s important for the old people to have something to do,” Harold McEntire, 75, said.

For now, gambling has resumed at the senior center. People are calling for the prohibition to be permanently lifted.

“We don’t want them sitting at home,” said Brenda Chovanak, senior program coordinator.

Many players form tight-knit friendships and build their schedules around the card games.

Center Executive Director Bob Dvorak said the card games reduce isolation for seniors.

“It’s a benefit to them mentally and physically,” he said.

Mayor Karen Guzak said prohibiting the seniors’ games was an unintended consequence of the council’s effort to prohibit commercial gambling.

Snohomish resident Morgan Davis, who attends most city meetings, said he thinks the ban was the result of the moral beliefs held by a few council members.

“It reminds me of that movie ‘Footloose’ where they thought dancing was the work of the devil,” said Davis, 72.

Lifting the ban for everyone, not just for seniors, could have economic benefits for the city, Davis said.

Coby Dilling, a Woodinville teacher and online business owner, said he wanted to open a saloon and riverboat downtown . It would have featured card games. The ban, he said, shut down his plan.

While he wasn’t looking to generate much revenue with low-stakes gambling, he wanted it to offer a different nightlife activity.

Dilling said he appreciates the character of Snohomish and had no intent to open a business that did not fit in with the city’s values.

“The last thing I’d want to see is strip mall casinos in Snohomish,” he said.

Still, he said, the city missed out on tax revenue from his business, and, potentially, from others.

The council has scheduled discussion of the card playing issue on the agenda for its Tuesday meeting. City staff want direction from elected officials on next steps.

People who frequent the senior center intend to pack the council chambers to ensure their voices are heard, though no action is expected.

“They oughta do something about it and let us play,” Herb Courtney, 94, said.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

Mountlake Terrace Library, part of the Sno-Isle Libraries, in Mountlake Terrace, Washington on Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Sno-Isle workers cite safety, unfilled positions in union push

Workers also pointed to inconsistent policies and a lack of a say in decision-making. Leadership says they’ve been listening.

A view over the Port of Everett Marina looking toward the southern Whidbey Island fault zone in March 2021. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County agencies to simulate major disaster

The scenario will practice the response to an earthquake or tsunami. Dozens of agencies will work with pilots.

Most Read