Chris Moneymaker Discusses Legal Woes With Poker in Kentucky

Poker at Chris Moneymaker’s social club in Paducah, Kentucky was recently shut down as local officials labeled the operation as illegal gambling.

Tim Fiorvanti
Feb 17, 2023
Chris Moneymaker’s discusses his next steps after his Kentucky social club has been threatened with legal action.

Poker players in Paducah, Kentucky are stuck in limbo after Chris Moneymaker’s social club was compelled to remove its poker tables this week.

Moneymaker, the 2003 World Series of Poker main event champion who’s widely regarded as one of the primary sparks behind the original online poker room, had opened up Moneymaker Social in Paducah just last Fall.

After being given specific guidance by then-county attorney Sam Clymer that the games running at Moneymaker Social were legal within Kentucky law, the new county attorney had a different view on the situation.

“Last Monday I was in London, I got a call from my attorney,” said Moneymaker. “We had received a nasty letter from the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Control, pretty much saying that what we’re doing was gambling and we’re not going to get a liquor license.”

Moneymaker Social, which got approved to operate as an LLC, had applied to add alcohol sales to the offerings of their social club. The primary financial driver to that point had been poker, and by taking membership fees rather than rake – similar to the system in place in Texas – Moneymaker and his team had been working on the premise that everything was above board.

But after rejecting Moneymaker Social’s liquor license application, the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Control sent a letter to new county attorney Cade Foster. Eventually, pressure was put on Moneymaker to cease offering poker and the potential for criminal charges was raised. A $50,000 guaranteed tournament was allowed to finish, but the poker tables were then quickly removed.

It was a blow to Moneymaker and the social club, as there was a clear feeling that he had had the rug pulled out from underneath him after specifically seeking out a location where he’d be in the clear to run poker out of a social club. He had previously looked at Texas as a potential location pre-COVID, but between that and the level of competition in the area, Moneymaker was looking to break new ground.

“I looked at a lot of spots, but one of my requirements is that I had to have legal protection,” said Moneymaker. We opened In August of last year, we have eight tables, but we usually ran two tables a night during the week and then averaged three on the weekends. It’s a smaller room here in the Northwest corner of Kentucky, because someone there told me that we could get a letter from a county attorney that would say it’s legal and within the state law.”

While he’s still waiting for the scenario to play out, Moneymaker was frustrated to be singled out for his operation. He pointed to card games, gin games for money, and Super Bowl squares happening at a local country club in the area that had either been given a pass or were allowed to fly under the radar as setting a double standard.

Moneymaker also had plans to expand Moneymaker Social to other areas, but for now he and the club are both stuck in limbo.

“I have plans to open up more rooms, but for right now that’s in a holding pattern as we wait and see,” said Moneymaker. I love poker and I’m trying to offer an opportunity for people to play. I mean, I wasn’t making any money in Paducah. But we are a social club and we’re staying open for now, giving my employees a place to work, until we figure out exactly what we’re going to do and what our options are.”