Written By Carla Harris
Those looking to lose some weight would be unlikely to achieve their goals at the former Curves health club for women in Runnemede, New Jersey, except through sweating out the calories in illegal no-limit games of Texas Hold‘em poker, as the health club was merely a front for an underground poker den.
This was revealed following a police raid on the ‘fitness centre’ where the Runnemede Social Club had been operating their illegal poker parlour for a number of years. The five operators arrested have pleaded guilty. The club was reportedly fitted with three poker tables and a cash cage for purchasing poker chips. Authorities told reporters that the club, which had a Curves poster in the storefront and blacked-out windows, operated on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights, staying open until the early morning hours.
According to the Courier-Post, a New Jersey news publication, the neighbours they spoke to claimed to know nothing of the late-night activities that took place there, with one saying that he “thought it was a bunch of old guys playing cards and watching TV.”
Philly.com, an online Philadelphia news publication, reported that the two ring-leaders, Thomas Rand, 43, and Ryan Dion, 33, as well as the three other men who worked as dealers and cashiers, pleaded guilty to charges of promoting gambling, with sentencing scheduled for early October. A sixth man, a card dealer, has also been charged but was not indicted.
Rand and Dion reportedly made their cut by taking a portion of the pot with each poker hand played. When the club was raided officers seized about $25,000 in cash from the players and operators, reported Philly.com. Rand has also admitted to running an illegal off-shore sports betting website.
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a news release, “These defendants operated an old-school gambling club, complete with cash cage, poker tables, and a wide-screen TV for patrons to watch the sports on which they gambled.” He added that the State “will make every effort to remove gambling from the shadows of the black market underworld.”
There are dangers associated in underground poker – aside from the threat of police raids, illegal gambling establishments are reported to be a favourite target for robberies as the crimes often go unreported. Of course there is also the prospect of owing large amounts of money to an establishment that is less than legal, and the methods employed to recover losses from players could be equally shady.