No poker for U: University administrators cancel on-campus card tournament

Several U students were surprised to find out Tuesday morning that the Student Poker Open, a poker tournament with a $20 entry fee, would not be held this week in the Union Ballroom.

The tournament, originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, had been prominently advertised by the Big SLC Poker Club in last week’s Chronicle and in flyers that were distributed all around campus.

Representatives of the Associated Students of the University of Utah and the U’s administration reportedly agreed late last week that the poker tournament was antithetical to the school’s educational goals, and decided not to allow Big SLC Poker to use the Union Ballroom.

“The administration and ASUU agreed that it wasn’t appropriate for an off-campus, for-profit group to come here and charge students to play in their tournament,” said Coralie Alder, a spokeswoman for the U’s public relations department.

The major problem, according to Alder, had nothing to do with gambling. Big SLC Poker had set up a prize structure for the Student Poker Open that was consistent with current Utah laws-which meant gambling wasn’t an issue.

Matt Nadeau, president of Big SLC Poker Club, said the administration cited image concerns with holding a poker tournament on campus.

“We thought that was kind of funny because there’s a billiard tournament going on and the Crimson Club holds a casino night from time to time,” Nadeau said. “So I don’t know where they draw that line. Why does our tournament give the U a bad image but the Crimson Club’s casino night doesn’t? We’re very confused by it all.”

Nadeau was notified last Thursday that the U would not allow the Student Poker Open to take place in the Union. He said the school said nothing of a problem with his company making a profit when he was notified of the school’s decision.

According to ASUU representatives, the decision was made because there was no apparent educational value in allowing an off-campus vendor to come to the U to make money on the students’ $20 buy-in. Big SLC Poker was going to give away a full-tuition scholarship as the first-prize, which the entry fee would have helped cover, but the company would have kept a portion of the proceeds as profit.

“In the end, we decided the poker tournament was something we didn’t want to be a part of,” said ASUU President Alex Lowe. “We weren’t too sure about the educational value of having an outside vendor come onto campus and take the students’ money.”

Nadeau was frustrated not only by the tournament’s cancellation, but also because Big SLC Poker had been planning this event since early November. Nadeau said that he was never told there might be a problem.

“We had indications all the way through that it was going to happen,” Nadeau said. “They told us to make sure all of the legalities were taken care of, and we did that. We went through all the proper channels, starting with ASUU, and everything was fine until last Thursday when we got a call saying the school didn’t want to do it.”

School officials deny that there was ever any kind of formal agreement or contract between the school and Nadeau’s company, but Nadeau took the school to court Tuesday morning to contest that claim.

“We had a done deal in place,” Nadeau said. “So we went to court to get an injunction to get the school to allow us to still hold the tournament. We felt that we had put so much time, money and energy into this that it was wrong, both legally and ethically, for them to pull out at the last minute.”

The injunction Big SLC Poker was hoping for was denied.

The judge told Nadeau that one morning wasn’t enough time to adequately make such a claim, and that schools typically receive a large degree of leeway in cases such as this.

Nadeau said that he wouldn’t have spent more than $5,000 in marketing and hundreds of man-hours preparing the event if the school had informed him of its decision when the tournament was still in its early planning stages.

Alder said the U’s administration didn’t know about the event until they saw it advertised in last week’s Chronicle.

“Several people were surprised when they saw the ad in The Chronicle last week,” Alder said. “The administration didn’t know about it until then.”

Alder insists that the event was never properly scheduled, and that it would be wrong to say the event was cancelled.

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