Yale’s popular annual Casino Night may be all played out.
Officials at the Connecticut Division of Special Revenue, which oversees gambling throughout the state, told the News on Monday that it is unlikely the event will take place in the future. Still, when Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges canceled Casino Night on Friday afternoon, the masters of both colleges said they would, for future years, try to obtain a legal exemption from the state law that prohibits casino games.
DSR spokesman Paul Bernstein said he understood the cancellation of Casino Night was “frustrating,” but emphasized that the DSR cannot approve an activity prohibited by state statutes.
“We have no authority to permit an activity that is no longer lawful within the state,” Bernstein said.
In an interview with the News on Monday, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 said he was open to discussions with Yale officials, but was not optimistic about Yale’s chances of obtaining an exemption.
“If they have points they want to bring to our attention, I certainly would be happy to meet with … any official who wanted to speak with me,” Blumenthal said.
Known as the “casino nights law,” the 2003 Act to Repeal Las Vegas Night Games overturned previous statutes that had allowed nonprofit organizations to hold gaming nights to raise money for charity.
DSR officials said it was unclear why it took so long for the act to affect Casino Night, since Casino Night has been a campus staple for years. After the act was passed in 2003, DSR staff informed all of the organizations registered with the state of the new regulations, said Anne Stiver, an attorney at DSR.
“The problem was, some of the organizations never even registered with the division,” Stiver said, “so they kept holding these events without even applying for a permit.”
University spokesman Tom Conroy said it was initially unclear whether the law would apply to events such as Casino Night, during which nothing of value is exchanged in the gaming, but the state government began to clarify the law’s reach in 2004, prompting the DSR to instruct police departments to crack down on such events.
The 2003 act made possession of gaming equipment illegal, a provision that may ultimately doom Casino Night to no more than a fond memory for Yale alumni. Bernstein said prosecuting businesses that rent or sell gaming equipment, such as blackjack tables and roulette wheels, was a more pressing problem for the DSR than regulating small nonprofit events.
Bernstein confirmed that the use of gambling equipment during Casino Night made the event clearly illegal, even if the event may have fallen in a gray area because no money was exchanged at the tables.
Ezra Stiles Student Activities Committee co-Chair Jasper Frank ’10 said Morse and Stiles owned most of the equipment and gambling paraphernalia. It was left over from past Casino Nights, he explained.
The masters of Stiles and Morse colleges said they could not comment on the future of Casino Night until they held further discussions with the University’s Office of the General Counsel.
“This is a complicated legal matter and I simply am not in a position to say what those next steps will be,” Morse College Master Frank Keil said.