BANGOR (AP) – More than two dozen snowmobile clubs across Maine have canceled fundraising poker runs after being told they had to buy a state gambling license for the events, according to the Maine Snowmobile Association.

Poker runs are considered games of chance, meaning they have to be licensed, said Sgt. Bill Gomane of the Maine State Police special investigations unit.

But snowmobile club officials said they are put off by the idea that nonprofits have to buy the licenses. They are also upset at having added paperwork and regulations forced upon them.

Barry Higgins, president of the Smoki-Haulers club in Oakfield, said the state is asking for a full membership list with members’ addresses, telephone numbers and dates of membership, and a copy of the club’s charter and bylaws.

“There’s too much big brother,” said Higgins.

Poker run participants typically snowmobile or drive to predetermined spots along a course to pick up playing cards, with the person holding the best hand at the end of the run winning a prize or cash. Many clubs use the events as fundraisers.

Many snowmobile club members said they wouldn’t have known about the law if not for an article in a recent Maine Snowmobile Association newsletter warning clubs to get a state license before holding their annual poker runs this winter.

MSA Executive Director Bob Meyers, who wrote the article, said snowmobile club members began calling his office last fall after an American Legion post shut down its weekly cribbage tournament in Gardiner because a state inspector said the games were illegal.

The Five Club Poker Run, organized by members of the Carmel, Glenburn, Hampden, Hermon and Levant clubs, was canceled after being held each of the past eight years. The run last year raised $2,147 to help send children and adults with disabilities to the Pine Tree Camp in Rome.

Organizers initially believed the licensing fee for the event, which was scheduled for last weekend, would run about $300. They later found out the fee was actually a lot less.

“It’s a huge disappointment,” said Steve Galen of Levant. “This year we were shooting to raise $3,000 for Pine Tree Camp.”

Gomane wasn’t surprised that the club had mistakenly thought the fee was that high, saying the laws are confusing even for people in his office. The actual cost, he said, is much less – $7.50 for a pre-application that identifies the group as a nonprofit and $15 for a license to host games of chance for one week.

Debbie Long, president of the Molunkus Valley Sno-Drifters in Sherman, said her club desperately needs the money that will be raised by its Feb. 23 poker run, so she spent two hours compiling paperwork and making multiple calls to the state for a license.

“It is frustrating because we are a small club struggling with the gas prices and we have to give up some more and pray you have a good turnout to recoup what you’ve got in it,” she said.

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