Herald Journal Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 15, 2002

Sportsmen's mixer called off after gambling complaint

By Julie Yurek

The Winsted Sportsmen's Club's he/she mixer was cancelled Friday, April 5 as the result of an anonymous call to the police.

The event was to include illegal gambling in the form of blackjack and other games, which has been a practice of the sportsmen's club for the past 12 years, said Tom Kieser, president of the club.

No fines or actions were taken against the club.

Though the gambling portion of the event is illegal, events of this nature are common through the state.

A "courtesy call" was received by the McLeod County Sheriff's Department at approximately 4:30 p.m., said Police Chief Mike Henrich.

"The call that was received spoke of gambling at the American Legion in Winsted. The caller stated that during the sportsmen's he/she mixer there would be gambling and that there were no permits issued for that kind of activity," Henrich said.

A Winsted officer was notified of the call by the sheriff's department. The officer in turn notified Henrich.

Henrich contacted the city clerk and the mayor to verify if any permits had been issued. Finding that no permits were issued, a call was placed to Dick Genty, commander of the American Legion, Henrich said.

Genty, in turn, told Legion member Tony Radtke, who informed club president Kieser. A police officer may have also attempted to contact Kieser, Henrich said.

The Legion's charitable gambling license could have been at risk if the event went on.

"No illegal activity took place, since the event did not go on," Henrich said.

If it had, "the department would have had to look into it further and get the state gaming commission involved, as far as if all the requirements were met," Henrich said.

"We had no choice but to look into the matter once we received the call," Henrich explained.

"Once a complaint is brought to the attention of the police, they have to do something about it," Kieser agreed.

"The club knew that once there was a call and complaint, that that would be the end of the gambling at the he/she mixers," Kieser said.

One of the things the club is most unhappy about is the lateness of the call, after much of the preparation and expense of the event had already taken place.

"Why the person didn't call a month ago instead of a few hours before it was to start, I have no idea," Kieser said.

As far as the identity of the caller, Kieser doesn't know who it is, but he does know who it is not.

"There were rumors about the caller being from the Blue Note, but Jeff (Campbell) talked to me and let me know that he did not call in," Kieser said.

"It may look that way to some people. This is the 12th year we've had the mixer and it was always at the Blue Note. This year it's at the Legion and all of a sudden the police are called. But myself and the club members know it was not the Blue Note," he said.

By the time Kieser was informed about the call at 6:45 p.m., it was a little over an hour until the mixer was supposed to start.

"We had everything ready to go ­ the meat for the meat raffle, all the food was ready for 150 people, and the hog was being cut up," Kieser said. "So, we tore the (gambling) games down."

"People came because it was too late to call. We had sent out mailers and advertised in the paper," he said.

Kieser appreciated the 50 or so people who stayed to eat. "Some did stay just for the meal."

The money that would have been raised at the mixer was going to go to local projects.

The sportsmen's club sponsors Take a Kid Fishing Day, snowmobile training, and firearm training.

It is also a charter sponsor for the Cub Scouts, and members build 61 wood duck houses each year. The club does both winter and summer lake clean-up and cost shares stocking walleyes with Lake Mary Association, Kieser said.

The club raises and releases 1,000 to 1,500 pheasants per year. It buys corn for wildlife feeders in the winter, he said.

The group also puts a portable toilet at Lake Mary. "That alone is about $90 per month," Kieser said.

The sportsmen's club owns, maintains, puts docks out, and pays taxes on four lake accesses ­ Lake Mary, Dog, Ida, and Round, he said.

"There are no other accesses on those lakes. We have the ability to close those landings at any time, but we won't as long as we can afford to pay for the taxes," Kieser said.

"We are not going to close the landings on these lakes, but we still have pay the taxes. Right now our taxes are due, which we have the money for, but what about the other project and events?" Kieser asked.

Many or most projects will probably not happen, Kieser speculated. "If no ideas come up to raise money, we'll have to cancel things like the fishing and the Mini-Biff for this year."

"The mixer was one of the 'paychecks' the club gets," Kieser said.

"If the state did the projects we do, it would cost taxpayers a lot of money," Kieser said. "It's a lot of volunteer hours."

Ideas on fundraising are encouraged, Kieser said. "The club would prefer an event where a sizeable amount money can be made in one day or evening. If we spend our time on little fundraisers, we won't have the time to go out in the community and do the projects," he said.

"We'd rather be spending time on the projects, the fishing event, and the safety classes. That's why the mixer worked so well. It was a big event that brought in most of the club's money for the year," Kieser added.

"We only do two money-makers a year, a raffle and the mixer, which was our main source for raising money. All the money we make stays in the community," he said.

If someone wants to sponsor an event or project, that would be great, Kieser said. "It would be a way to still have some of the projects this year."

Donations are also welcome, Kieser said. They can be mailed to his address, 10895 Fetch Ave. SW, Waverly, MN 55390.

"This will affect almost everyone from those who like to watch the wildlife we feed to those who take their kid fishing," Kieser said.

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