Professional poker player sentenced for running illegal gambling operation in Marquette

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 11:52 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 at 2:00 PM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Professional poker player Joshua T. Thatcher of Gwinn will serve probation after pleading guilty to running an illegal poker room in Marquette.

According to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, Thatcher was sentenced Jan. 19 to 12 months of probation after pleading guilty on Dec. 2 to one felony count of Gambling Operations for his role operating an illegal poker room known as 906 Poker Social, formerly located at 1200 S. Front St., Marquette.

TV6 reported on the poker room’s opening in 2021. The so-called private poker club opened April 1, 2021, and closed July 8, 2021, following a joint investigation by the Michigan Department of Attorney General and Michigan Gaming Control Board Criminal Investigation section.

As part of his plea agreement, Thatcher agreed to forfeit to the State of Michigan all items seized from the location, including six poker tables, $13,050 in cash and other money held in bank accounts connected to the investigation of 906 Poker Social.

“Unregulated gambling operations do not offer Michigan residents the same protections provided through legal, regulated gambling,” said Henry Williams, executive director, Michigan Gaming Control Board in a press release. “The Michigan Gaming Control Board’s mission is to ensure fair and honest gaming in Michigan, and we partner with the Michigan Department of Attorney General to investigate and eliminate illegal gaming activities across the state.”

The Michigan Department of Attorney General prosecuted the case.

“My office remains committed to upholding business rules and regulations, and that includes our state’s gambling laws,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in a press release. “I appreciate the work the Michigan Gaming Control Board has done to protect Michigan residents and businesses.”

Thatcher also was charged in May 2022 with five other felony counts, including two counts of using computers to commit a crime, and a high misdemeanor count of permitting a gambling house for gain. The other counts later were dismissed.

Judge Jennifer A. Mazzuchi of the 25th Circuit Court in Marquette presided over sentencing.

In published reports, Thatcher described 906 Poker Social as a private membership club where members gambled against each other. He charged members a fee based on weekly, monthly or yearly membership plus a $10 per hour chair rental fee. The location offered live poker and other games.

In a phone call to TV6 Thursday afternoon, Thatcher said, “It’s really unfortunate that the state of Michigan does not want people to create a safe and friendly and professional environment to play poker. That’s all I was trained to do. I actually got permission from the Michigan Gaming Control Board… All I was trying to do was create a professional, safe environment to play cards. It’s really unfortunate because people are forced to play in Escanaba… or have a home game, which is not professional or safe.”

In addition, Thatcher stated the Michigan Gaming Control Board said in May 2021 that they did not have the authority to regulate his club.

Specifically, he cited a story from MI Bets for which he was interviewed on May 4, 2021, which stated, “[T]here are no laws prohibiting a private membership club where the members gamble against each other, and the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) is not looking to expand its reach.”

In that same story, Thatcher pointed out that MGCB Spokesperson Mary Kay Bean was quoted directly as saying its authority did not expand to private clubs.

Bean told MI Bets, “‘The Michigan Gaming Control Board does not license nor regulate private poker clubs... The agency licenses and regulates poker through the commercial casinos and authorized online operators as well as charitable poker (known as millionaire parties).’”

Thatcher stated that it was two months later that his club was raided.