Sean Murphy, a Belfast, Ireland, club owner, is considering legal action against police after armed officers raided a poker tournament at his establishment, the Cavendish Club, this past weekend and seized more than £20,000. According to Murphy, 30-40 officers in riot gear stormed the Cavendish Club on Saturday night and ordered patrons to stop playing.
The Cavendish Club is well known among poker players in Northern Ireland. It has hosted the online Texas Hold'em Poker Open and is often featured on the U.K.'s Sky TV. On the eve of the raid, up to 200 players were reported to be playing at the club, which only serves tea and coffee. Regular patrons include many professionals, such as doctors and lawyers.
Murphy said, "Looking into the room, I saw upwards of 15-20 policemen and I was subsequently told there was the same number downstairs - they were armed and in riot gear. They just marched in and went up the stairs. It was quite frightening."
He told the BBC, "These are businessmen, professional types and people from all walks of life sitting down having a game of poker - they are not used to having squads of policemen charging up the stairs at them."
Murphy and his patrons believe they were not acting in violation of any laws, and are demanding a return of the money taken from the club that night. "There was just over £20,000 - which was the prize money we had collected for the tournament on Saturday night," Murphy said.
The Cavendish Club has been open for several years. Murphy claims that, at the time the club was opened, he was in contact with police officers "because the Gaming and Lotteries Act (NI) is a little bit of a grey area." He continued: "The senior policeman assured me that if there were any concerns he would be in touch with me. Since nothing transpired after that we assumed that everything was in order."
A spokesman for the police said: "The police carried out a planned search of premises in Corporation Street in Belfast under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order 1985. They seized cash and a number of items. If anyone has a complaint to make about the actions of any police officer, they should contact the Police Ombudsman's office."