Flint man faces felony charges after alleged improper payments at Owosso Poker Room

Man allegedly received nearly $30,000 before gaming was suspended

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OWOSSO, Mich. - James Russel Johnston Jr. is being charged with violating state charitable gaming laws by requiring a supplier to pay him gambling profits.

Johnston was arraigned Nov. 9 on felony larceny and charitable gaming law violation charges following an investigation by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

Authorities said Johnston violated state law by requiring a supplier to pay him gambling profits at Owosso Poker Room, allegedly receiving approximately $30,000 in improper payments from Aug. 2014 to Oct. 2015, when MGCB suspended gaming.

“When an unlicensed location receives gambling profits, it is against the law and undermines the integrity of charitable gaming,” said MGCB Executive Director Richard Kalm. “These kinds of illegal activities can rob charities of the ability to raise funds successfully when the MGCB must enforce the law and stop gaming. It also can cast a cloud on the good works the charities do.”

Johnston allegedly set up a fake gaming supplier for his location, running the supplier side behind the scenes. Charities reported that Johnston handled all scheduling and financial statements. Additionally, the location had exceeded chip sales limits during tournaments.

Under Michigan law, charities manage their own gaming events or may get help from a licensed gaming supplier who may provide dealers, cards, chips and similar items. Location owners, such as bars or service organization halls, are authorized to receive only reasonable rent payments from a charity and may not be involved directly or indirectly in charitable casino-style gaming.

Larceny by false pretenses is a felony that carries a penalty of 15 years in prison and/or a $15,000 fine. The misdemeanor charge, conspiracy to commit gambling-charitable gaming supplier violations, has a penalty of one year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.

The Owosso Poker Room is currently renting the space for charitable gaming and working with a licensed supplier.

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