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Florida course facing gambling investigation

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If Tampa-area golfers want to play for a couple bucks, they're probably well-served to steer clear of Tarpon Springs Golf Course for the time being.

That's because the course is currently under investigation by Tarpon Springs police for the gambling that occurs among the various golf leagues it hosts.

According to a Tampa Bay Times report, regulars at Tarpon Springs were told on Feb. 8 that they needed to either eliminate their side action - usually on the scale of $20 per person - or take their play to another course.

"On the Richter scale of crime, this has to be in the minus," said Bob Dekle, a law professor at the University of Florida. "I don't see a prosecutor being wildly enthusiastic about prosecuting the case unless there are thousands and thousands of dollars being bet."

According to the report, the investigation started after Tarpon Springs police received a letter from a former golf course employee. The possible crimes relate back to two state statutes: keeping a gambling house, and game promotion in connection with the sale of consumer products or services.

After two weeks with no league play, the course was able to resume hosting leagues on Feb. 21, under the stipulations that no course employees or volunteers could participate in league operation, and that prize pools had to be pre-determined and not tied to the number of participants. The investigation of the course, however, remains ongoing.

The entire situation was perhaps summed up best by Ray Hamil, a 78-year-old league participant.

"Every golf course in this country does it," Hamil noted. "Why they singled out this golf course I'll never know."