Illegal poker at Burnaby bowling alley nets probation – Burnaby Now

Police went undercover to infiltrate an illegal poker league being run out of a lounge at Revs Bowling. The league’s organizer, 58-year-old Richard Kurt Giebelhaus, was sentenced to a year of probation last month.

Police went undercover to bust an illegal gambling operation being run out of a lounge at a Burnaby bowling alley before COVID hit, according to details revealed at a Vancouver provincial court sentencing last month.

Richard Kurt Giebelhaus, 58, was in court on Dec. 20 and pleaded guilty to one count of keeping a gaming or betting house between July 10, 2019 and March 26, 2021.

The charge relates to an illegal poker league Giebelhaus started in an upstairs lounge at Revs Bowling alley at 5502 Lougheed Hwy. and then moved online after COVID restrictions came into effect in early 2020, according to agreed facts presented in court.

Crown prosecutor Andrew McLean told the court the league had been promoted through a private Facebook page.

Undercover operation

Police launched an investigation in July 2019.

After surveillance confirmed the existence of a poker league at the bowling alley, police sent in an undercover officer.

“An undercover operator successfully infiltrated the poker league, participating in numerous games, both in person and online,” McLean said.

Investigators learned that a portion of the entry fees went directly to Giebelhaus and that he also collected a 10 per cent cut of the gross food and drink sales from the bowling alley during poker nights.

Buy-ins for the games, which ran two or three times a week, ranged from $20 to $40, with the nightly prize pool fluctuating based on the number of players.

The league moved online using the PPPoker app in early 2020 because of the pandemic.

At some point, Giebelhaus admitted to the undercover officer that taking a cut from the games was illegal and that gambling had become his full-time job during COVID, according to the agreed facts.


McLean argued it was an aggravating factor that Giebelhaus knew what he was doing was against the law.

That Giebelhaus ran the league for profit was another factor weighing against him, according to McLean.

Neither McLean nor Giebelhaus’s lawyer, Michael Bloom, said Giebelhaus should go to jail for his offence, but they disagreed on whether he should end up with a criminal record.

McLean argued for a suspended sentence with two years of probation, which would have meant a criminal record.

But Bloom called for a conditional discharge with a year of probation, meaning Giebelhaus would not have a criminal record if he abided by the condition of his probation.

Bloom noted Giebelhaus’s offence had been committed in an “open forum” at Revs and then online.

“This is not a case where the common gaming house was associated with prostitution and gangs, drugs, loan-sharking or any violence,” Bloom said.

He also noted Giebelhaus had pleaded guilty and hasn’t gambled since his arrest in March 2021.

Bloom said the offence was “completely out of character” for Giebelhaus, a father of four who has worked his whole life and coached youth soccer for decades.

Gambling addiction

Bloom explained Giebelhaus had undergone emergency heart surgery in 2019 and then lost his job at Greyhound when the pandemic hit.

He developed a gambling addiction because of not being able to work and sitting at home, according to a letter of support from his longtime common law partner.

Bloom said a criminal record would prevent Giebelhaus from coaching youth soccer and billeting international students, which the family has done for years.

A criminal record might also impact Giebelhaus’s current full-time job at BC Ferries, Bloom said.

Bloom argued a conditional discharge would be in Giebelhaus’s best interest and wouldn’t be contrary to the public interest.

In a brief statement to the court, Giebelhaus apologized for his actions.

“You’re never going to see me here again,” he said.

B.C. provincial court Judge Andrea Brownstone ultimately granted him a conditional discharge with one year of probation.

During his probation, he is banned from hosting or playing in any card games and from possessing any gambling paraphernalia, such as poker chips, poker tables or score sheets.

He must also complete 40 hours of community work service.

“The principles of sentencing can be met,” Brownstone said of Giebelhaus’s probation and discharge. “It is in society’s interest to have you continue to work and volunteer without a criminal record.”

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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