By Mary Thurwachter
Poker Night, a benefit card-playing event planned by the Lantana Chamber of Commerce and scheduled for Nov. 10, didn’t have a chance to unfold.
Chamber members received word via email from Chamber Executive Director Lynn Smith that the event had to be canceled because state law considered the fundraiser — for a new awning for Chamber headquarters — gambling and therefore illegal.
State law enforcement officers did not come knocking on Smith’s door.
“I found out because we wanted to use the town’s recreation center and needed a special event permit,” Smith said of the site at 418 S. Dixie Highway. “The application was denied because they said it was gambling.”
Arini Wiryomartono, the town’s community planner, said that a condition for approval requires that “you need to be in compliance of 849.11 of the Florida Statute, which prohibits prizes for the event.” Prizes for Poker Night would have been prepaid Visa cards ranging in value from $100 to $500. Tickets for the event would have been sold for $50.
“Whoever sets up, promotes or plays at any game by lot or with dice, cards, numbers, hazards or any other gambling device for the disposal of money or other thing of value shall be guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor,” according to Florida Statute 849.11.
Smith said the Chamber needs about $1,600 for a new awning and will look for another way to raise the money. The board of directors met to discuss how to do that after Poker Night was canceled, but decided to wait until next year to tackle the matter, Smith said.
“I’m not familiar with any other organizations using the recreation center for similar reasons,” Town Manager Deborah Manzo said. But Smith said the Chamber has held similar events in the past without a problem.