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CLC Rejects ...08 Casino Night Plan

By Kelley Rivoire

Plans for a Class of 2008 casino night organized by its Class Council for Friday, Dec. 9 have been derailed after the event failed to gain approval from the Cambridge License Commission. The License Commission must clear all gambling events as exceptions to the usual regulations.

The decision by the CLC on Tuesday night came as a surprise to the Council and Daniel Trujillo, associate dean for community development and substance abuse programs, who said things “turned rather unexpectedly.”

Class of 2008 Vice President Jonathan A. Birnbaum said that based on his meetings with Trujillo prior to the CLC hearing, he had expected obtaining the CLC’s approval to be “merely a formality.”

At question are the regulations of the Massachusetts Attorney General that govern casino and bazaar events, which each municipality is left to interpret, Trujillo said. Since the Class of 2008 event would not have involved the exchange of money, he said he had felt that MIT could work with the CLC in holding such an event.

CLC Executive Officer Elizabeth Lint said the regulations were complex, but that one major sticking point was the offering of prizes as part of the event.

Through further work with the License Commission, Trujillo said he hopes to “obtain some clarification” and find a way for similar events to be held. “We try to work with the city,” he said, suggesting that the Campus Alcohol Advisory Board might be a natural place to further discuss the event with the License Commission.

But Lint said there is no room for middle ground. “Our hands are tied,” she said, because the regulations govern casino events specifically. The “City of Cambridge prohibits any type of gambling or appearance thereof,” she said. Any such event planned in the future would also constitute a violation of the Attorney General’s regulation, she said.

Trujillo said that the relationship between MIT and the CLC is not adversarial. It’s “not an us versus them type of issue,” he said. “Obviously, they don’t enjoy refusing requests like this.” There’s a “balance of appreciating also the situation the city finds itself in,” he said.

But Birnbaum placed the blame squarely on the License Commission. “It’s ridiculous,” he said, criticizing “very conservative Cambridge laws.” The event was safe, “all in the spirit of having fun,” and did not involve money or alcohol, he said. The casino night was to be free and exclusive to members of the Class of 2008; about $1,500 in prizes, including an Xbox 360 and iPod nano, would have been awarded, he said.

The Council asked few questions, Birnbaum said, before deciding by a unanimous motion not to approve the event, a “huge shock,” he said.

Class of 2008 Secretary Jiang Wei Zhu said the CLC ruling was disappointing personally, but that the class “shouldn’t be disappointed,” because “in no ways are we going to slack off,” and the Council will host other events.

New events to be planned

The Council will continue to pursue options for the casino night, perhaps in Boston where restrictions seem to be less stringent, Birnbaum said.

Zhu said she expects the Council will hold a dodgeball tournament before final exams, rather than throw together a large-scale replacement event. She said if a casino night is not possible, a game show night with similar prizes might be an alternative.

The class had chosen to have a casino night rather than a formal to appeal to more people in the class, Birnbaum said. The Council has been aware of the legal concerns since planning began in September, he said, and has worked closely with the Student Life Programs Office and Trujillo.

Birnbaum said the Council paid a fee to be added to the License Commission agenda about a month ago, but Tuesday’s hearing was the earliest at which they could be accommodated.

The only part of the event he thought might be in jeopardy involved the question of casino dealers, he said, and the Council had a backup plan of using paid graduate students as dealers.