Poker permission awaits appeals court decision

Tribe must continue to make do without Texas hold 'em

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COEUR d'ALENE - The Coeur d'Alene Tribe will have to continue without its Texas hold 'em tournaments while it waits for a decision by a federal appeals court.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Thursday denied a motion to suspend an injunction he ordered earlier this month, preventing the tribe from conducting poker tournaments.

Winmill disagreed with the tribe in his Sept. 5 ruling, saying Texas hold 'em tournaments are illegal under Idaho law.

"We were disappointed in that initial decision, but this (stay request) was primarily a procedural step and a kind of legal formality," said Heather Keen, a spokeswoman for the tribe. "We didn't expect the judge to reverse course on his decision."

In considering a stay, courts look at both the likelihood the party will succeed and also whether the applicant can show it, or other parties, will be irreparably or substantially harmed.

"The court finds that the public's interest is furthered by keeping the injunction in place," Winmill wrote in his memorandum decision and order signed Thursday. "The court also finds that the public's interest is furthered by upholding Idaho state law."

Keen said the tribe is now moving forward on an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We have filed an appeal to the court asking the court to stay the injunction," Keen said.

She said the tribe also has asked the 9th Circuit to consider a hearing on the merits of the case and the tribe's underlying arguments for why it believes it can legally offer Texas hold 'em tournaments on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation.

David Matheson, CEO of the Coeur d'Alene Casino and Resort, told the court there are 49 jobs directly attributable to the tribe's Texas hold 'em poker tournaments, paying approximately $175,000 per month in salary and benefits.

"If the Texas hold 'em tournaments continue to be enjoined, the tribe and/or its members will suffer significant harm in that the tribe may be forced to terminate, eliminate, and/or jeopardize the continued employment of its members, and other non-members, whose jobs support the operation of such tournaments," Matheson wrote in a declaration to the court on Sept. 7.

The loss of the jobs would mean those employees are likely to "apply for state and/or federal unemployment benefits if they were to be let go from their current employment," Matheson wrote.

He said the casino's overall operations have benefited from the tournaments.

"Some of the benefits include overall increased revenues from other gaming operations, increased occupancy at the Casino and Resort hotel, and overall increased non-gaming retail sales," Matheson said. "These revenues go to the tribe to fund all tribal government programs, to include, but not limited to, education, police, and social services."

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