The Nautica Charity Poker Festivals recently completed an eight-year run in Cleveland, Ohio. Since 2005, the Festivals have have drawn thousands of visitors to downtown Cleveland and raised over $10 million in contributions for Northeast Ohio charities. The Festivals and Nautica Entertainment Complex have been featured in television shows and local as well as national media.
Created to generate revenue for local charities as well as increase public awareness of the Nautica Entertainment Complex as a potential gaming site, the Nautica Charity Poker Festivals opened in June, 2005 in a temporary Festival Center located at Nautica. In their first year of operation, the Nautica Charity Poker Festivals raised over $400,000 in contributions for 12 charities, including Special Olympics, Up Side of Downs, and Northeast Ohio Breast Cancer Coalition.
The formula for the Nautica Charity Poker Festivals was simple – charities supply the volunteers required to run each Festival, including Texas Hold ‘Em dealers, to comply with state law. 100% of net proceeds from raking pots (originally seat fees) were retained by the Participating Charities who realized other forms of income from such things as sponsorship and concessions.
Poker players played Texas Hold “Em by conventional rules and the poker action was often brisk. Filling 20 tables every night with both cash games and tournaments was customary. The Festivals did not feature tricked up games with rules designed to benefit the charities. This was real poker. As a result, the Festival Center attracted a wide variety of people who wanted to play poker. The benefit to the Participating Charities was this format allowed them to generate donations from a new source and to the players it represented the only place of its kind in Ohio where they could play poker.
In 2008, the Nautica Charity Poker Festivals moved indoors while expanding to 46 weeks. Automatic shufflers were added and $1,500,000 in donations were raised for local charities the first year indoors.
In 2011, the Nautica Charity Poker Festivals moved to a new location at the Nautica Entertainment Complex, expanded to seven days per week resulting in approximately $3,000,000 in donations raised by 87 charities hosting Festivals.
From small beginnings, the Nautica Charity Poker Festivals grew into a substantial fundraising opportunity for Northeast Ohio charities. Over 100 local charities with thousands of volunteers amassed nearly 1,000,000 volunteer hours. Their efforts, combined with help from the staff of Jacobs Entertainment and the Nautica Entertainment Complex, raised over $10 million in donations for local charities from 2005 to 2012. Those funds have been used to improve the lives of countless men, women and children throughout Northeast Ohio.