Seniors investigated for ‘illegal gambling,’ but John Tory asks ‘anti-fun police’ to stand down

WATCH ABOVE: The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s enforcement bureau usually investigates organized crime, but recently it was looking into a group of Scarborough seniors playing Euchre at a community centre for $1.25 each. Melanie Zettler explains.

Eighty-four-year-old Barbara Hibbs lost her husband two months ago and has relied on the company of her friends and the euchre to help with her grief.

She said she was shocked to learn her group of about roughly 40 seniors, who play euchre at the Scarborough Village Recreation Centre, were being investigated by officials because they have $1.25 buy-in for the games.

“People have been very upset because for 20 years we’ve been collecting a dollar and a quarter to play,” said Hibbs.

“[The money] makes the game a little more exciting, but it’s also the socializing and it gets the seniors out of their homes … It’s my social life. Between that and quilting, it’s what keeps me busy.”

A sign inside the recreation centre with the City of Toronto’s official logo, which was still up Friday afternoon, said, “All activities will continue with an adjusted fee of 25 cents” and that “no exchange of money will be allowed at any older adult drop-in programs.”

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“It just seems silly that they wont let us put in a dollar and quarter,” said Berdina Jarrett, who’s been playing euchre for 20 years.

“It’s not gambling really, it’s a skill game … The most you can win is 10-to-15 dollars.”

Jarrett and her friends said they noticed the signs go up at other community centres in the area too, including at the nearby Port Union Community Centre.

“I think its all very silly … Leave us alone, we were doing fine before we never bothered anyone,” said long-time euchre player Nancy MacDonald.

“We have met so many friends through this. We’re just seniors getting along, minding our own business and having fun.”

READ MORE: Bingo backlash: Selkirk seniors back in the game after province shut them down over $5 prize

Toronto Mayor John Tory addressed the issue Friday morning, saying he’s asked officials to “stand down” on an investigation that was looking into whether the seniors’ games could fall under “illegal gambling.”

“I’ve asked the general manager of parks and recreation to stand down and reassign the ‘anti-fun police,'” said Tory.

“I am sure if there is any danger of Las Vegas-style gambling breaking out en masse in our community centres we will know about it.

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“In the meantime I will be speaking to some of the seniors involved to offer an apology from the Mayor and to tell them we are fixing this immediately.”

Meanwhile, Jarrett said she has her doubts, adding she’ll believe it when she sees the signs go down.

“We’ll see how it all pans out, we’re under the direction of the people running the recreation centres,” she said.