Poker continues to flourish across the casinos of the world and on the Internet as well. One spot that continues to be attacked by law enforcement in the United States is the small gathering of friends known as the home game. A recent raid by police in South Carolina shows not only the lengths that the legal community is using to eradicate these games but also is demonstrating that these players don't have to stand alone.
In Mount Pleasant, SC, on April 12th, local law enforcement raided a home game between twenty two players in a private home. They issued citations to those that were involved in the game, but perhaps what was more criminal was the seizure of over $6,000 from the participants in the game. The actions of the police in Mount Pleasant made it sound more like they were raiding a drug lord's establishment rather than a simple get-together between poker players.
According to published reports, police entered the home with guns drawn and their identities obscured by ski masks. They swept through the house and, once completing their raid, were actually fairly nice to the participants, despite their appearance. Players contended that the game was a small tournament with a $20 buy in that didn't require such a display of police presence, but the law thought differently. They characterized the game as a high-stakes, casino-style poker parlor that advertised games over the Internet and attracted people from all over the South Carolina area.
The raid has also caught the attention of the Poker Players Alliance. The organization, which has recently been active in the current legislation regarding online poker in Washington, has caught wind of the raid on the game and has kicked in their considerable force for the players involved. In an e-mail sent out by Michael Bolcerek, the president of the PPA, he was quick to point out why the PPA was getting involved in the situation. "The PPA was created to promote and protect the game and defend the rights of all poker players no matter where they play," he stated in the e-mail. "We are actively working to help the individuals who were arrested in this raid and we are seeking legal counsel that is licensed to practice in South Carolina, on a pro-bono basis, to assist in their defense. If you are an attorney, or if you know of an attorney who would be willing to offer their services, please contact me directly."
What is appalling about this raid in particular is the factor that the police didn't just seize the monies that were in play. The players stated there was $250 in action on the tables for the tournament, but the police went in and confiscated other funds. The local constabulary also seized whatever money was held by the players in their wallets and purses and also swept the house involved. This sweep confiscated money that was held in such obscure locations as dressers in other rooms of the house and distinctly was not a part of the game involved.
Furthermore, the statements of the local mayor were irritating as well. Mount Pleasant mayor Harry Hallman, Jr. issued a statement crediting the police force with breaking up a gaming operation. "I am proud of our nationally certified force and satisfied with the clear message they are sending to lawbreakers," Hallman said. "We will not tolerate this type of activity in our town." Perhaps this show of force would have been better used in a truly criminal activity, rather than a simple poker game in a private residence.
Hopefully the efforts of the Poker Players Alliance will lead to some help for our South Carolina poker friends and will allow them to recoup their losses from the raid. With the level of crime in the United States today, it seems rather silly that law enforcement would waste their valuable resources on such a gathering. We'll keep an eye on what happens in this case in the near future will be sure to report on any new developments in this ongoing situation.
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