Billy Joy’s Run for Office Threatened by Past Gambling Conviction


Democratic candidate Billy Joy, a resident of Terre Haute in Vigo County, Indiana, finds himself embroiled in a potentially career-ending controversy over an old illegal gambling conviction that could scupper his hopes of running for office. With aspirations to secure the Democratic nomination for Vigo County treasurer in the spring primary slated for May 7, Joy is contending with more than just competitors.

Two anonymous letters targeting the Tribune-Star this week brought to light an ostensibly buried part of the candidate’s past, a criminal legacy that may have a significant bearing on his political future. In a past that’s proving difficult to shed, Joy was slapped with an illegal gambling conviction in 2011, sparking concerns over his fitness to hold public office.

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Nearly a decade ago, the Indiana Gaming Commission launched an investigation into Joy’s involvement in illegal gambling activities, which led to a law enforcement raid on poker games conducted at a local sports bar, Highway 40 in West Terre Haute. Shrugging off these allegations, Joy countered in a chat with the Tribune Star, defending himself with a statement that it was merely a game of cards among buddies, albeit one that resulted in charges.

However, court records paint a more damning picture. Based on the findings of the police and regulatory officials, it was ascertained that Joy was not only a participant but also an organizer of the poker games at the sports bar. Additionally, he was held responsible for other games at an alternate location where sports betting and numerous forms of gambling reportedly took place.

Private poker games are considered illegal in Indiana when someone is either taking a cut from the pot or profiting from the game in any other commercial aspect. This placed Joy right at the heart of the criminal investigations and charges.

A series of legal proceedings followed, and in November 2013, Joy was arrested and charged with three different offenses: corrupt business influence, money laundering, both classified under Class C felony, and professional gambling, a Class D felony. After some legal wrangling, Joy eventually pleaded guilty to one count of professional gambling, leading to a reduction of the conviction to a Class A misdemeanor the following year.

In a court verdict that allowed him a sigh of relief, Joy was sentenced to a year in jail, with 363 day suspended and credit for one day served, leaving him to serve for only one day. His punishment also included a fine of $1, court costs amounting to $174, and probation. In a move signaling remorse, he also contributed $500 to a local charity, as documented in court records.

Despite this, Joy’s past continues to cast a long shadow on his political endeavors. Terry Modesitt, a Vigo County attorney, disclosed that he was examining whether Joy’s prior conviction would render him ineligible to run for office. According to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office, a verdict or a plea of guilt relating to a felony, regardless of it being later reduced to a misdemeanor, disqualifies a person from running for office.

Faced with these intimidating odds, Joy confessed to the Tribune-Star, he had not sought legal consultation regarding his current predicament. Nonetheless, Joy took a surprisingly philosophical stance over the issue, stating, “If the legal system tells me I have to take my name off, that’s the way it will have to be.”