Raids on Poker Players in Hong Kong

Macau and Hong Kong may have little else than their special governmental status in common; whereas the former can be considered the "Las Vegas of Asia", the latter has strict rules against poker and gambling in general.

The latest issue was forum member hongkonger’s. PokerStars co-sponsored room The Hong Kong Poker House organised a final all-you-can-eat party the other night, together with a freeroll tournament, before closing doors. The 160 participants got raided by the police who were looking for money and confiscated their stacks. Even though prized tourneys are legal in Hong Kong, all players were arrested “under suspicion of illegal gambling.” Although the tournament started at 7 pm, the raid, together with identifying the players, moving them to the police station by two(!) vans in 9 trips and keeping them at the station, took several hours. Eventually, they all could go from around 5:30 am on a bail of HKD $400 (USD $50) per person.

Hong Kong arrest
Hongkonger's fellow players get arrested

No less outrageous is the case of Michael Tan Boon Suan from New Zealand, a Merrill Lynch banker, who got arrested with his seven companions earlier this year playing Texas Hold’em. Charged with “gambling in a gaming establishment,” they might be on the edge of actually committing a crime, as, according to hongkonger, cash games are unclear as to be legal or not, and police seized cash (HKD $153,000) in the raid in addition to the chips (worth HKD $3.7 million). They were also released on bail of HKD $1,000 (USD $130).

Besides the fact officials are occasionally eager to acquire some bail cash from wealthy poker players, cases like these make me wonder: are we not better off with solid regulations, however strict they may be, than with ambiguous half-laws that allow these things to happen?