Two men were arrested for their roles in an illegal poker room in Evansville that was open for nearly a year. Edward Hill and Mark Nicholas Edge were allegedly running the operation.
Edge, from Owensboro, Kentucky, is facing felony charges for his involvement in the illegal poker room. Authorities arrested him March 22 and booked him into Vanderburgh County Jail.
Edge was released from jail on bond. Police also released Hill on bond after he was arrested a week earlier.
Backdoor poker operations are illegal, and none of them are sanctioned or regulated by the casinos in Indiana.
Illegal poker room busted
The Indiana Gaming Commission first investigated both suspects for their part in the illegal poker house when a confidential source made them aware of the situation. The commission then went to the Indiana State Police to execute a search warrant.
When police searched an office space on Weinbach Avenue on April 5, 2022, they found two separate tables that featured poker games and a dealer at each table. There were 16 players in total at that location.
The poker room operated Monday through Friday evenings, and a select few afternoons from July 2021 until April 2022. The confidential source who tipped off the Indiana Gaming Commission said via the affidavit explanation in The Owensboro Times that Hill ran the poker room while Edge was the primary dealer of games and the establishment’s manager.
When police executed the search warrant, they found $9,240 at the establishment. They also searched Hill’s home and found another $13,182.
Hill and Edge allegedly moved on from a different illegal poker operation in 2021 to begin their own. They created a split where Hill received 75% of the profits, and Edge kept the remaining 25%. Edge also allegedly kept all of the tips from dealing games.
Both men face felony charges for corrupt business influence, professional gambling and promoting professional gambling.
The problem with illegal gambling houses in Indiana
Issues with illegal gambling establishments like the poker house run by Edge and Hill are common in Indiana and across the country.
The issue caught the attention of Indiana legislators in the past, specifically Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, and former Republican Sen. Philip Boots. They co-authored a bill in 2020 to decriminalize and regulate these private poker rooms as they were “private low-stakes card games.”
That bill – known as Senate Bill 434 – has not been heard by a committee since 2020. But it still shows the importance to some legislators in addressing this issue of illegal gambling houses. There are also concerns that illegal gambling establishments become spaces for organized crime to grow comfortably, hurting the communities they’re based in.
Creating legislation like SB 434 to decriminalize and regulate small stakes poker rooms could go a long way toward keeping communities safer. All while the state reaps the tax revenue gained from regulating such establishments.
At least for now, lawmakers in Indiana have not sorted out the issue of illegal gambling. Until they prioritize these spaces, they will continue to operate throughout the Hoosier State.