High Crimes on the Golf Course?

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On February 8, golfers at the Tarpon Springs Golf Course were issued a stern warning by club general manager Chuck Winship upon entering the clubhouse: betting on league play was no longer allowed.  Apparently, Winship was under investigation by the Tarpon Springs Police Department for permitting casual gambling by club members.  Commenting on the investigation, Winship noted, “Originally . . . I thought it was a joke.”  It wasn’t, however – Winship later learned that the investigation had been passed on to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s office.

Captain Jeffrey Young, the spokesman for the Tarpon Springs police department, indicated that Winship’s club was suspected of violating two state statutes: one that prohibits keeping a gambling house, and another which forbids game promotion connected to the sale of consumer goods and services.  The ‘gambling’ at issue is the member’s practice of gathering $20 from each golfer after they pay their green fees and golf cart fees.  The money is later divided up amongst the golfers depending on how they perform.

Ray Hamil, a 78 year old club member, believes that the whole gambling investigation is ridiculous.  He noted, “Every golf course in the country does [this], and why they singled out this golf course I’ll never know . . . .  You can call any course you want (about gambling leagues) and they will all tell you the same thing, and if they don’t, I’ll buy you the biggest steak in the state.”

Law professor Bob Dekle from the Florida Levin College of Law offered his two cents on the issue, stating “On the Richter scale of crime, this has got to be in the minus . . . .  I don’t see a prosecutor being wildly enthusiastic about prosecuting the case unless there are thousands and thousands of dollars being bet.”  Though the golf club has since agreed to prohibit the practice at issue, there has been no indication that city officials have dropped the investigation.  Winship remains nervous about the whole ordeal, noting, “Every day that goes by without hearing anything gets more nerve-wracking . . . .  It’s just dangling over my head.  It’s driving me crazy.”

Florida course facing gambling investigation

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