Poker Raids in Asia

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Poker Raids in Asia

Postby DM101 » Sat Oct 15, 2011 11:52 pm

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Re: Poker Raids in Asia

Postby Darkmage12 » Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:10 pm

Wow nice list there
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Re: Poker Raids in Asia

Postby MJFX » Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:07 pm

Interesting read.
http://www.pokernz.com/news/australian- ... oker-bust/

Andrew Scott’s account of the Hong Kong Poker Bust!
Posted on 10 August 2010

by Andrew W Scott
11 August 2010


Check out Dan Sing’s video here…

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php ... 8059503245

Posted to the facebook group “The Inside Scoop on the HKPH raid” 12 August 2010

THE LEADUP

Over the last couple of years a private members club called the Hong Kong Poker house became the lynchpin of the poker-playing community in Hong Kong. Everyone who is anyone knows it. It started off with six poker tables on the first floor of 49 Hollywood Road, in the absolute heart of the party district of Hong Kong, opening around July 2008. For those of you who don’t know a poker table generally has capacity for up to ten players, so at first the club could accommodate up to 60 members who wanted to play poker.

About a year later, the club expanded to the second floor, which was branded “Bankroll”, directly above the HKPH. There was capacity for about another six tables there, so capacity expanded to 120 members playing at once. However, it was a very rare thing that all 12 tables would be open, in fact it may never have happened. It was common to see just five tables on either floor.

Collectively both the first floor (HKPH) and the second floor (Bankroll) were also known as the HKPH. So in some contexts “HKPH” meant just the first floor, and in some contexts it meant the entire club (spread over both floors).

Since day one of its operations the HKPH was a private members club – one could only enter as a signed-up member who had paid a membership fee. One of the privileges of membership was the right to sign in guests from time to time.

Hong Kong is of course technically part of China (although it is highly autonomous and in practical terms operates as its own country), and around 95 per cent of its citizens are ethnically Chinese. We all know that the Chinese absolutely love gambling. It has run in their blood for thousands of years. Money is bet every single day of the year at countless social nights at friends’ houses, and the police neither have the ability nor the inclination to bat an eyelid. It is accepted as a normal part of Chinese culture.

Contrary to public opinion, there IS legal gambling in Hong Kong outside of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s near-monopoly. For example, Mahjong has taken place in licenced venues all over Mahjong for well over a century and continues to this day, with a house rake being deducted from each hand’s winnings. This type of Mahjong takes place in specially licensed venues. Another style of Mahjong commonly takes place at social occasions such as weddings and big birthday bashes – and yes, people play for cold hard cash. Sometimes small amounts, sometimes larger amounts.

As long as certain conditions stipulated under the Hong Kong Gambling Ordinance are adhered to, social gambling in Hong Kong is legal. Those conditions include the need to conduct play at a licensed venue (such as a bar or restaurant), that the owner of the premises doesn’t participate in the game, that there is no “rake”, “shop” or “house take” deducted from pots, and that all players play with an equal starting position so there is no statistical advantage to any player or group of players built into the rules or structure of the game.

The HKPH’s activities complied with these conditions completely, and were therefore completely legal. Remember such legality relied on strict adherence to these conditions, which HKPH did religiously. It was a big part of the corporate culture of the HKPH. The whole “poker in Hong Kong” thing was perceived by some to be a grey area, but I don’t even think it was grey, as long as the poker club stuck to the rules. I read, re-read and analysed the Hong Kong Gambling Ordinance with a fine tooth comb, and I think there is no way any judge who was interpreting the facts reasonably could conclude anything other than the way poker was run at the HKPH was legal.

The police were totally aware of the existence of the HKPH and had been from the start. They had visited on many occasions, but it seemed that they really didn’t understand it, or the laws around it. It just looked like gambling to them (because people were all sitting around tables with cards and chips). The Chinese police understand Mahjong, and accept it, even though there is a rake from the pots, but they don’t understand poker, even though there isn’t a rake from the pots. And we all know the old adage that people are scared of what they don’t understand.

With the success and popularity of the HKPH, and poker generally, it was inevitable that imitators would spring up, and they did. Others copied the format, but never quite as professionally as the HKPH and without the same rigid attention to detail about the conditions that needed to be met to ensure the legality of the game. Because of this, other poker clubs were eventually raided by the Hong Kong police and some shut down.

THE CLOSURE ANNOUNCEMENT

Less than a week before 10 August, it was announced that the HKPH was closing, and that the last night would be Tuesday 10 August 2010. The reason given was that the landlord had decided not to renew the lease. This apparently wasn’t due to any legal problem between the landlord and the HKPH, it seems the landlord decided he wanted the property back. Some have speculated that the police may have put pressure on the landlord, but I haven’t got confirmation whether that is true or not.

A big party was planned for the closing night. The deal was that for a cover entry fee of HK$300 a head, members and their guests could eat and drink as much as they liked. Presumably the Club wanted to clear out all its food and drink before it closed.

In addition there was going to be a freeroll tournament for the members. For those of you that don’t know a freeroll tournament is one that is ENTIRELY FREE TO PLAY. It is impossible to lose. Surely nothing can be construed as gambling if it is impossible to lose!

Players would be given 2,000 “dollars” in chips as a starting stack in the tournament. These “dollars” of course are not real dollars at all, but are play money, or funny money, or whatever you want to call it. They are just like the play dollars one uses in a monopoly game. Just like monopoly, the game continues until someone has all the “play money”, and that person is declared the final winner. This concept of using “play money” or “funny money” is not unique to poker; it is used in other mind-sport tournaments too.

The HKPH’s closure was big news in the Hong Kong and Macau poker communities. Everyone who was anyone was going to be there. Pokerstars Macau generously donated some prizes for the higher placed finishers in the tournament. None of these prizes were cash, they were things like Pokerstars merchandise (clothing, chips sets, etc), free nights accommodation at the Grand Lisboa hotel, that kind of thing.

Jeff Ng, someone well known in the Hong Kong and Macau poker communities as the Managing Director of the free-to-play Hong Kong Poker League (not to be confused with the Hong Kong Poker House) sent a group email out about the upcoming closing night to various friends and members of the Hong Kong poker community. I was one of them.

THE SCMP CITYSEEN ITEM

One of the recipients of Jeff Ng’s email was Ben Sin, a reporter at the South China Morning Post – Hong Kong’s major English-language daily newspaper. Ben Sin had previously written some stories about poker in Hong Kong, and Jeff Ng had invited him as a guest of a member and as a courtesy since he had done some poker-related stories. Jeff Ng told me that his email was in no way a press release or any kind of public document. It was merely a group email to some poker-community friends encouraging them to come along to the party.

Ben Sin on the other hand, has said to me that he is a journalist, and that everything he is told is fair game, especially since the relationship between Jeff Ng and himself was essentially that of PR and journalist. Jeff Ng on the other hand says that he doesn’t even work for HKPH.

Anyway, rightly or wrongly, Ben Sin, without consulting Jeff Ng, decided to run a piece on Tuesday (the day of the closing event) in the “CitySeen” section of the SCMP. This piece quoted Jeff Ng by name, but paraphrased his email, rewording the quotes. I have seen both Mr Sin’s piece and Mr Ng’s email, and there are differences. When this was put to Ben Sin, Ben sent me a couple of earlier emails Jeff had sent him. These explained one word change (from “problem” to “trouble”), but not the others. I think what really happened here was that Ben Sin quoted Jeff Ng in an amalgam of various things that Jeff had said to him over the previous few weeks.

The CitySeen piece was written almost as an ad. Ben Sin says that he was helping HKPH, and had continually been told that HKPH was legal, so what’s the problem? Mg Ng tells me that the email clearly stated that it was for members and guests and not a blanket invite to the public. To the uninitiated (and no doubt to the police), it looked like a promotion to the public, which is most certainly not how the HKPH operates. It included Ben Sin’s paraphrased quote of Jeff Ng, “we never got in trouble with the law and have never been raided.” It even included the address and the starting time of the party, and invited the public.

There is a school of thought that the SCMP piece run by Mr Sin at least contributed to the raid. I think there is probably an element of wanting someone to blame here, which is a natural occurrence. Ben Sin counters that saying that the search warrant is dated August 9, and therefore the raid had to be planned prior to his piece going out. It is a pretty good argument. A counter-argument could be that yes while the search warrant was prepared, they may not have used it knowing that Tuesday was the last night, but the CitySeen piece was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I must say that a policemen did mention the CitySeen piece to me in the police station after I was arrested.

In further defence of Ben Sin, I will say that he has contacted me and said several things. Firstly he has said that he is essentially a supporter of poker, and I believe him. He’s said he’s sorry that the police are too narrow-minded to understand that poker shouldn’t be illegal. And he’s said that if you tell a journalist something, especially if your relationship is simply that of a PR person and journalist, you’ve got to expect that thing will be reported. All these things are true. Ben has no reason to lie about this, and his writing of the stories indicates that he genuinely wanted to support the poker cause.

It is not for me to be a referee in this matter about whether the Ben Sin contributed to the raid at all, and if so how much. Ben and anyone else interested in the matter is welcome to post to the facebook group, “The Inside Scoop on the HKPH raid”. You guys can work it out yourselves.

THE NIGHT BEGINS

As CEO of World Gaming magazine (www.WGM8.com <http://www.wgm8.com/> ), I spend a lot of time in Macau. I made a special trip from Macau to Hong Kong, just to be at the HKPH closing party. I arrived at the HKPH at about 7:20pm and noticed a long line trailing from the door. Many people were already inside the venue and perhaps fifty more were lined up trying to get in.

I am told some people who were not members or their guests were turned away at the door – even on their last ever night the HKPH were strictly adhering to their long-held policy of members and their guests only.

When I got inside I saw what was clearly a very social occasion. I caught up with people I hadn’t seen in months, or even years. Food and drink were laid out and everyone was in a happy, jovial mood. The party atmosphere was in full swing and there was a TV crew recording video interviews of notable club members.

The free poker tournament was due to start at 7:30pm, but didn’t really get going until 8pm, which is quite normal, especially given that it was so crowded. The tournament started and much fun was being had. Probably the most notable international poker tournament trail players who were in attendance were China number-one money winner David Steicke, PokerStars Team Pro player Shanghai-born Celina Lin, and yours truly. Also playing were likeable New Zealand player Dan Sing and respected Hong Kong local Sailesh Verma who has made his name as a regular on the Hong Kong poker scene.

There were five tables of ten players downstairs at HKPH and five tables of ten players upstairs at Bankroll, all with a maximum capacity of 10 players on each, making a total of 100 players playing. In addition, I guess there were about 50 alternates. Alternates are players that can join the game once a player is eliminated from the tournament thus freeing up a seat. On top of that, there were maybe 12 or so dealers and various bar staff, partners, casual friends and acquaintances and people standing around eating, drinking and socialising. Some of the alternates were waiting out in the street due to the sheer volume of people in the club. In the club itself, there were about 180 people spread over both floors.

The people in the club represented a broad cross-section of Hong Kong society. Most of the Hong Kong poker community was there. Male and female, young and old, expat and local Chinese, the crowd included many professionals and members of Hong Kong’s elite: bankers, lawyers, accountants, people of leisure and so forth. Most ladies were elegantly dressed in evening wear and the whole occasion felt special.

I was playing in the tournament at a table on the second floor and pushed all-in with Kx of clubs on a flop with two clubs including the ace of clubs and was called by a player with A9. For once in my life I actually hit a draw when the beautiful club card came on the turn and I doubled up my chip stack from approximately 2,000 “dollars” in chips to approximately 4,000 “dollars” in chips. Had I just won $2,000 in cash? No, of course not. Merely my chip stack (or, if you like, my “score”) had gone from 2,000 to 4,000. That’s all.

THE RAID

At about 8:30pm there was suddenly a plainclothes cop at each table with ID hanging around his neck. The cop at our table, who I later learned was Constable Huang Cheung Tai, seemed to appear from nowhere. There was confusion for about 15 minutes while it dawned on people that this was the police. The police were not forceful in making their presence felt. It wasn’t like a raid where the cops bash the door down and charge in, it was more like a government bureaucrat door-knocking to drop off a census form. Constable Huang stood quite timidly at our table, but I sensed what was happening.

For a moment, I thought of walking out. I really wish I had done so. I knew something was up, and I stood up and started to slowly walk out away from my seat. Constable Huang told me to sit back down in my seat. I told him that I didn’t want to. He blocked my exit from the table. So now I was faced with a choice, keep walking into him or stop and talk. I chose the latter. I asked him what was going on and he didn’t really give me any answer, simply saying over and over again something along the lines that he was a policeman and could I please co-operate by sitting down at the table. After a few rounds of this, I got a little more forceful in my voice, and said to him that he hadn’t arrested me, and therefore I was free to go wherever I wanted.

This actually brought a response from some of my fellow members and friends that suggested I should back down. Unsure of what to do, I elected to go with my friends’ gut feeling which was to co-operate. With the benefit of hindsight, I suspect Huang making an arrest was not in the police’s game plan for the night, and if I had just kept walking, he would have backed down. However, a more senior cop may well have arrested me before I made it all the way out of the building.

When the police halted the game on my table we had been dealt cards but there had been no pre-flop action yet. For the record I looked at what I now know was my last ever starting hand at HKPH and it was 87 offsuit. I never got to finish the hand and we’ll never know if I would have hit that straight! I just know the flop was coming 6-5-4 rainbow!

We all sat there until about 8:45pm, when suddenly the most senior policeman present made an announcement. The crowd quietened down and the person in charge of the raid, Chief Inspector Cheung Man-shing (English name: Alvin Cheung) [police number UI70292] announced what I heard as: “I am in charge of this operation. I am here under the authority of the gambling authority. You are now all under arrest on suspicion of gambling.” He then cautioned us, saying either “you have the right to remain silent” or perhaps “you have the right to not answer any questions” – I can’t quite remember which.

Other people have said that he said, “I suspect there is gambling”, but they may well be quoting what he said on the first floor (remember, I can only vouch for what happened on the second floor).

Of course his suspicion of gambling was totally incorrect. In fact, I strongly suspect he never really did have such a suspicion, and that the whole thing was just a media stunt to make the police look pro-active.

I want to make it very clear: there was zero gambling going on, there had not been a single bet placed all night that I know of. This was a freeroll and there was no money on the tables. Personally I paid HK$300 at the door for food and drink for the night and that was the only money I parted with.

Apparently on the first floor the police brandished a search warrant to the room in general as they entered but it was later discovered that the search warrant was for the first floor only, not the second floor (one of the club members apparently got the search warrant in his hands at one stage). I’m not sure whether they brandished the same search warrant when entering the second floor or not. I was seated at table three which was the table furthest from the main entry door of the room I was in, so given the crowded room I didn’t see the police enter the room.

After arresting us the police again told everyone not to move from their positions. They classified people as either “players” (because they were seated at the tables), dealers (obviously because they were dealing and sitting in front of the chip float), and then just other people who were standing around.

The cops then started “gathering evidence” of our devious criminal activity of playing a freeroll. They pulled out small digital cameras much like the ones you might carry with you for happy snaps on a family holiday and took pictures of chips, tables, cards, etc. They bagged up the chips and cards in evidence bags. They then proceeded to move on to searching the “back of house” areas of the club, going through bags, lockers, cupboards and so on, gathering more evidence of the evilness of this den of iniquity!

During this evidence gathering phase the police demanded everyone hand in their ID cards. Yes, for those of you who don’t know, every Hong Kong resident has an ID card, something eschewed in other countries for civil liberty reasons. If you are not a resident of Hong Kong (and I am not, although I visit there extremely regularly), your passport serves as your ID card. Many people didn’t like the idea of handing over their ID cards to the police and personally I refused to give the police my passport. I wasn’t letting go of that Australian passport of mine. I heard one people ask for a receipt for their ID card, but the policeman laughed and showed his own police ID, saying “that’s your receipt”. If I had an ID card and decided to give it to the police (or if I knew under Hong Kong law you have to give it to the police, which by the way a friend’s lawyers said you apparently don’t have to), then I would also have demanded a receipt.

The police continued searching back rooms and attempting to gather evidence. They did this on the second floor, so if it is true that the warrant was only for the first floor they were in breach of their warrant, unless there is some other provision of Hong Kong law that allowed them to search the second floor without a warrant.

Officially, no-one was allowed to move from their position (sitting or standing) during this evidence gathering phase (which lasted for nearly two hours) but in reality there was a lot of chatter and jostling and moving around going on. Try to keep people still under those circumstances for two hours! Naturally people started complaining about needing to go to the toilet. They were only allowed to do so one at a time (there were uniformed armed cops guarding the exits, and toilets). As far as I am aware the plainclothes police at the tables did not have guns but the uniformed police standing just outside the rooms and outside the building did. It was reported that over 100 police were involved in the raid.

Those of you who know the HKPH know that there are curtained windows around most of the south and east sides of the room on both the first and second floor. Of course we peeled the curtains back to see what was happening on the street. We saw police vans but no buses so we were encouraged thinking that they didn’t plan to take us all to the station. How wrong that proved to be.

A crowd started milling around in the street, much like the crowd that forms around the scene of a major motor vehicle accident. Then the media arrived. First we saw a newspaper camera-person, then a TV camera, then a second TV camera. This was Big News.

The police seemed understaffed, inefficient and inconsistent in their approach. They continued to give us no information. People were confused, tired, hungry, and thirsty. Many hadn’t eaten since lunchtime (they were planning to eat dinner at the party). This went on for hour after hour. Numerous club members politely asked on several occasions how long this would take, whether we were all going to the station, whether we were going to be charged and the ordinary kinds of questions that you would expect people to ask in this situation. One player was even a lawyer, who said that he had thoroughly read the Hong Kong Gambling Ordinance before coming to the venue to play.

The members of the HKPH are mostly white-collar expat and local Chinese professionals and reasonably wealthy entrepreneurs. They are an educated bunch and weren’t intimated by the situation. They treated the police with respect, but also a little frustration as the police continued to refuse to answer any questions and left everyone mystified as to what was happening. Eventually I asked one of the cops what was the longest someone could be held under arrest without being charged under Hong Kong law, hoping that it would be no more than 24 hours. The policemen instantly replied, “48 hours”. It was grim news.

David Steicke had to catch a flight to Australia that night at 11:30pm and was naturally concerned about missing his flight. He told the police about it and they suggested he had better make alternative arrangements. That was a bad sign.

I can’t speak for the floor below, but eventually there was a near-revolt on our floor and Chief Inspector Cheung quietened the crowd and announced to everyone that if the whole process hadn’t been completed by 12:30am, he would allow everyone to go at that time on bail. This was clearly an example of an outright lie, or maybe blatant incompetency, since the first person to be released, a breast-feeding mother who was given top priority, was not let go until approximately 6am the following day! I heard that the last person was released at around 2pm. Chief Inspector Cheung’s statement was no doubt designed to placate the crowd and a lawyer later told me that this police tactic is known as an inducement to co-operate or an inducement to give a statement.

Chief Inspector Cheung later admitted to a friend of mine who was there that he plays Texas Holdem poker himself at the Grand Lisboa in Macau, but he said he didn’t believe it was any different to the casino game Caribbean Stud Poker (thus showing his complete lack of understanding of the game of poker and how it works).

I later learnt from the media that the police claim 176 people were arrested, and that number sounds about right. I wonder if that is the largest number of people that have ever been arrested in Hong Kong outside of political demonstrations?

Remember at this moment, everyone was under arrest and was owed a duty of care by the Hong Kong police. Then, at about 10:30, the fire alarm went off in the building!
…continued from part 1…

THE FIRE ALARM AND THE POLICE’S FLAGRANT DISREGARD FOR OUR LIVES

The police completely ignored the fire alarm, as if it wasn’t happening. Everyone looked at each other, and the police, for about a minute, and then the very forceful discussion began. People, myself included, were very forcefully telling the police that there was a fire alarm and we needed to get out of the building. The police, who looked pretty young and inexperienced, acted liked deer stunned by oncoming headlights. They clearly had not been trained in what to do in this situation. People were saying things like we have to get out of here, and the police refused to let us go.

I feared that a stampede would occur and that people might be killed in the crush even if it was a false alarm and there was no fire. Those of you that know the HKPH building know that it only has two very slow and very small lifts, and of course in a fire you are not supposed to use the lifts anyway.

I have always thought the HKPH building was a bit of a potential death-trap in a fire situation. The building has two stairwells that look almost identical (I think one zigzags on the even floors and one on the odd floors). One leads to the street outside but the other leads to a complete dead end – just a solid concrete wall at a 45 degree angle to the floor. On several occasions when leaving the HKPH by stairs I have found myself stuck in that dead end and having to turn around and go back up. If 180 people stampeded down the stairs and we got stuck in that dead-end, well, I think people would have died.

I said all this to Constable Huang straight to his face. I begged him to let us out of the building. David Steicke was forcefully asking a policewoman who seemed a bit more senior what the protocol was for this situation and she replied, “we wait to see if it is a false alarm”. This of course brought guffaws of incredulousness from the crowd. I mentioned the situation in the 9/11 attacks where emergency services told people to wait in the building while the fire was spreading. It really was a stressful and somewhat scary situation.

That situation only got worse when we looked out the window and two fire engines arrived! People were starting to panic. I told Constable Huang that I didn’t care that we were under arrest for something that we hadn’t done (which was precisely the case), all I cared about was my life. If there was even a one percent chance I was going to die in a fire that wasn’t a chance that any of us should take. He then said, “well what about me, I’m at risk too” as a justification for holding us. I thought to myself the fact that a Hong Kong policemen died too in a fire wouldn’t be much of a comfort to my mother if I died, but I decided not to say that, electing instead to tell him that I wanted him to get out of the danger too.

Next thing we knew, two firemen burst into the room, randomly walked around for a few seconds, and then departed just as quickly. Imagine the panic that was welling up and about to unfold.

I even offered to be handcuffed, just to get out of the building. I said he’s welcome to handcuff me for the walk out of the building and then to cuff me to a rail on the street below.

I learned later that things on the first floor were much worse. Apparently, the crowd in that room did in fact rush the doors and try to escape, and the police got outside the doors, and barricaded them by using their weight against the doors while the club members were pushing the doors on the other side, trying to escape the building.

Just imagine the situation if there HAD been a fire. The police, whose duty it is to try to protect life and limb, would have been the cause of death firstly because of the fact that they conducted a ridiculous operation most probably just as a publicity stunt fully knowing that no laws were being broken, and secondly because of actually barricading people in a death-trap. Whoever trained these police has some serious explaining to do.

Anyway, after about 25 minutes, the fire alarm stopped and the police suddenly announced with confidence that it was a false alarm. They certainly didn’t have that confidence when the alarm first started sounding and they were all looking at each other like stunned mullets.

For the next hour the police continued “evidence gathering”, but I suspect they were really liaising with the media getting the next step organised.

THE ORCHESTRATED PERP WALK

By now there were TV cameras crews on the street outside, and a newspaper cameraman. I later learned that these were from Apple Daily, the major Chinese language newspaper in Hong Kong. Apple Daily is by far the largest circulation newspaper in Hong Kong, and appeals to the precise constituency that the police are trying to convince they are doing a good job fighting crime. The South China Morning Post is the major English-language newspaper and appeals to the expats rather than the locals.

Well surprise surprise, it just so happened that Apple Daily were all organised, had staff ready to go and knew exactly where and when the raid was going to be. I wonder how that was? The SCMP wasn’t so lucky to get the scoop. Perhaps the SCMP wasn’t going to be as police-friendly in its coverage.

All the players were now lead down in single file, one table at a time, marched criminal style straight into the police van. It was just like something out of a movie, a typical perp walk and was clearly set up to be so. Many people got books, clothes and magazines (including World Gaming magazine) to cover their faces with. This of course was precisely what the police and Apple Daily wanted – people who looked like criminals being marched off by the efficient long arm of the law. Good job, Hong Kong police, you’re tough on crime, and especially those evil gamblers.

The evil perp walk picture showing us criminal masterminds was splashed across the front cover of Apple Daily the next day (Wednesday 11 August). It was accompanied by a sensationalist story littered with factual inaccuracies, but I’ll save that discussion for another time. Notice also that the raid and perp walk occurred just in time to make the cutoff for the next day’s newspaper coverage. If that perp walk had been just say an hour later, it wouldn’t have made it for the next morning’s paper. Nice co-operation between the police and Apple Daily.

I smiled and waved at the press and looked happy – thus ensuring my picture would not be shown in any media coverage. That’s not the shot that had been orchestrated between the police and the media.

Just remember we’re not talking about Triad Gangsters here, we’re talking about mostly university and college-educated white collar professionals who have never been in trouble with the law in their life paying HK$300 for the food and drink of a party and playing a FREE game of poker together, with no money involved. And these people were frog-marched into a police van in front of TV cameras like common criminals.

THE COP SHOP

By now everyone was tired, bored, dejected, and some were getting a bit depressed.

The police vans (there were multiple vans going at the same time) brought us to the Central Police Station in Shueng Wan ten at a time. So it took about 18 trips back and forth from the HKPH to the police station to get everyone to the station. That took over two hours.

They put us in three rooms. The room I was in was the main room. It was clearly a training room, with a large whiteboard at one end and about 70 chairs lined up facing the whiteboard. By the time they brought us all in about ten at a time there was probably about 120 people in that one room. That room became our home for the next 7 hours (if you were lucky like me and got out at 7am) or more like the next 12 hours (if you were unlucky and got out at 12noon). I heard the last people got out at around 2pm the next day (Wednesday 11 August).

Anyway, we didn’t all get to the station and into that room until about maybe 1:30am.

There was a mini-revolt the one time Chief Inspector Cheung showed his face in the room. Everyone quite rightfully demanded to know why he had not honoured his word and released us at 12:30am as he had said he would. He had no answer for us. He just muttered something incomprehensible, shrugged his shoulders and walked out.

When a senior policeman lies directly to your face, knowing that his lie will be found out just a few hours later, but does it anyway, what does that do to your confidence in what the police tell you?

By now people were getting thirsty and very hungry. The police gave us a one of those five-gallon water containers that normally go atop water coolers and a bunch of tiny paper cones. We served ourselves awkwardly.

Some of the English guys broke out in song – it sounded like those songs that the English fans sing at football matches. A bunch of other guys had a staring contest with a poor unfortunate junior female police officer stationed at the front of the room and got her to smile, much to the delight of the crowd.

I piped up and demanded that some people get some food. I said to one of the cops that there were people who hadn’t eaten for maybe 14 hours and the police had a duty of care to us. There was one fellow who was getting very cold and sick and was begging for some food. God knows what would have happened if anyone had a serious medical condition.

At one point an obviously senior police officer came into the room and got everyone’s attention. He announced to the crowd that there would be no statements taken from anyone tonight. The plan was merely to confirm the identities of everyone by checking and recording their IDs, and then “bail” everyone at a cost of HK$500 each. He used the expression “bail”, but I was under the impression that you couldn’t be bailed if you hadn’t been charged (maybe I am wrong about this), and I wouldn’t imagine they would charge anyone with questioning them. As it happened in the end as far as I know no-one got charged (certainly I didn’t and no-one I know did) and we had to all pay HK$400, not HK$500. Some people didn’t have the money and had to borrow it off others. So much for us all being high-rolling gamblers!

Eventually, after a while the police actually brought in some lamb souvlakis! However, given that none of us were Jesus Christ and able to feed the masses with a few small loaves those handful of souvlakis weren’t enough to go around. Later they brought a very few small containers of char siu, a popular pork dish in Hong Kong. Again, too little too late. Then, low and behold, they announced that they were going to buy us McDonalds! I couldn’t believe it!

They announced this in Cantonese and someone who was bilingual explained to all the English speakers (the English speakers probably slightly outnumbered the Chinese speakers) that we had to nominate two types of burger and they would get plenty of both. We proceeded by consensus to do so (for the record I think we settled on Big Mac and Cheeseburger, but I’m not sure). The McDonalds never arrived. Another police promise broken! Actually, with that one I suspect it may have been a genuine language miscommunication.

The whole situation took on a bit of a “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere. As people do, they broke into cliques. They schemed and plotted. They thought of ways to try to get the police to do something. There were many plaintiff appeals to the cops in English and Cantonese. At times, the room had a bit of party atmosphere. To the credit of the Hong Kong poker community, if anyone was intimidated by the situation, they didn’t show it. We had strength in numbers. They were about 120 of us in that room (and about another 55 in two other rooms), and we outnumbered the police. I actually believe a lot of bonding between fellow poker players went on in that room over those wee hours of the morning. Maybe something good will come of all this.

Some people collapsed on the floor to sleep. Others got angry. One guy wanted us all to make a scene and cause mayhem to force the cops to do something. Others (including me) thought that was a bad idea and discouraged him (just as I had been discouraged from trying to walk out before we were arrested). No-one blamed that guy or got angry, he was just suggesting what he thought was best. One thing I can say about the Hong Kong/Macau poker community, is that despite us all going to battling against each other at the poker tables, that night we were all as one, in it together. There were no heated arguments. People helped each other. People encouraged each other. The more outspoken of us spoke on behalf of those whose natural inclination is not to speak out. Everyone understood what everyone was going through.

In a lighter moment one guy grabbed the policewomen’s hat (she had left it on a table) and tried it on. This didn’t go down well with the cops who rushed over and reprimanded him.

I was having a text message conversation with a reporter from the SCMP who had heard about what was happening. A couple of other people were asking me to get the media down to the police station (not quite sure how I was meant to do that). I imagine some of the more adventurous guys were quietly plotting an escape attempt!

We were all bound by one simple fact universally understood by all of us: we had all been arrested for something that we unequivocally knew we were not guilty of. The police had made a mistake. We were right and they were wrong.

Time rolled on. 3am. 4am. Nothing. The police gave us no meaningful explanations as to what was going on. From time to time one of the more outspoken people would demand to know what was happening and the police merely came up with platitudes like “please be patient”, “there is a lot of you”, “I don’t know how long it will be” – just meaningless statements.

I continued to refuse to hand over my passport. Someone said they had called their lawyer and their lawyer had said that the police didn’t have the right to take ID cards. At one stage, the police approached me and basically acknowledged that they didn’t have the right to confiscate my passport by politely asking me if I was continuing to refuse to give them my passport, and when I said that I was (but that I was happy to show it to them while I held it) they had no complaint with that. They had to process some details of my passport details and told me to accompany them to another part of the station to show my passport to a data entry person. Pushing thoughts of being “back-roomed” out of my head, I complied, and indeed they were being honest about what they wanted to do.

While I was walking alone with the single plainclothes policemen I took the opportunity to ask him why they had conducted the raid when they knew it was the last night of the HKPH. He replied quite candidly, that poker in Hong Kong was illegal (this statement is not correct) and that the HKPH had been far too high profile by having an ad in the paper about the closing night. When he said “ad” he was clearly referring to Ben Sin’s piece in the CitySeen section of Tuesday’s SCMP. I am not saying this piece is the one and only cause of the raid, but just quoting what that police officer told me.

Meanwhile, David Steicke had changed his 11:30pm Tuesday flight to a 9am Wednesday flight to Australia. As the hours rolled on again it became apparent that he was going to miss the new flight time and he had to go to the expense and inconvenience of changing his flight once again. Finally he ended up on a 7pm flight on Wednesday, and actually we are both on that flight right now as I type this. No I am not running away from Hong Kong, I was scheduled to be on this flight before the raid and I will be returning to Hong Kong quite soon.

I was asked my occupation and nationality at least three times through the night by the police, and I know that many other people were asked for their details multiple times. Maybe the police were checking to see if we gave consistent answers, or maybe they were just incompetent at data collection.

After hours and hours and hours when they were doing God-knows-what they finally started taking people out of the room, five at a time. Luckily I was in the fifth group so I got out reasonably early. We were taken down to another section of the station in our group of five and we had to pay HK$400 each to get out. As a final indignity they told us they didn’t have any change (despite obviously collecting HK$400 from at least twenty people so far) and that we would have to work it out between the five of us and just present them with HK$2,000 as a group. We worked it out, gave them the HK$2,000 and then we were called up to a counter one at a time.

FREEDOM AT LAST

I was the third person called up which I guess made me the 23rd person to be released of the 120 or so people in that room. People tell me after I left it was just more of the same and people continued to be release very slowly, five at a time, for the next five hours or so.

At the counter I was given a single piece of paper for my HK$400, stating that I was under a recognisance under section 52 of the Police Force Ordinance, to return to the police station at a date in late August. No-one specifically asked me to come back to the station, but based on what the police said to us, and based on what I have heard about similar cases, I presume the appointment as outlined on the piece of paper is to make a statement, even if that statement is “I have no statement to make”. Prevailing wisdom from the lawyers is to say nothing at all until and unless you are charged and find yourself with a day in court. Then you can prepare a defence. It may well be that the police are not able to form a case against us and no-one will be charged.

At this stage I am not sure whether it is true, but I have heard that the police have one month to lay charges.

I am yet to take legal advice on the implications of the various options available to me. Obviously I travel extensively and may well not be able to be in Hong Kong on the date I am supposed to return to the police station, so who knows how I will deal with that.

I was in police custody from my arrest at approximately 8:45pm to my release at approximately 7am. More than ten hours of my life wasted on a complete debacle.

THE AFTERMATH AND SOME THOUGHTS

This raid was a disaster and there should be a backlash against the police – firstly for doing it and secondly for the way they did it. The police seemed totally unprepared for the number of people that were at the HKPH, even though the raid clearly had significant preparation go into it.

An opinion expressed by many to me is that this entire raid was simply a publicity stunt by the police. The argument is that the police don’t understand poker, they are scared of it, and they just want to get rid of it whether it is legal or not. The argument further contends that by having orchestrated perp walks on the front page of the Chinese newspaper they look like they are being “tough on gambling”, and they scare people from playing. The prevailing wisdom is that the result of all this is that it will push poker underground – basically creating criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

Maybe the police need a training course to explain to them precisely what is going on with poker in Hong Kong. Maybe the Hong Kong government needs to look at the Gambling Ordinance and bring it up to date with modern times. Maybe poker in Hong Kong needs to regulated and licensed somehow, maybe in conjunction with the Hong Kong Jockey Club which is already a respected gaming organisation in Hong Kong.

The people in that perp walk who sadly found themselves portrayed as common criminals on the front page of Apple Daily should be hailed as heros in the poker community. They were ordinary law-abiding citizens going to a legal social function and did not deserve any of what they got. I feel terribly sorry for them.

There is clearly a groundswell of support for poker in Hong Kong. It’s not just the expat community. Sure, it started with the expat community but now we have local Chinese people who don’t speak a word of English embracing the wonderful game of No Limit Holdem Poker. Look at the expansion of poker across the world, through the US, Europe, Russia, Australasia and indeed Macau.

If the police wanted this raid to end poker in Hong Kong I think they have succeeded in putting a lid on it for a while. They’ve scared enough of the community that players will, for the time being, simply sail to Macau to play, where poker is completely legal and is currently available in five poker rooms.

However – as a long-term objective the police will not be able to stop people playing poker. The whole question of poker in Hong Kong needs to be tested and maybe it will be as a result of this raid. The Hong Kong poker playing community is now galvanised with a shared sense of outrage at this unjust police action. These players are intelligent, educated people with ethics, not criminals and gangsters. The police have not made any friends with their conduct.

Let me make it clear I love Hong Kong. I think it’s a wonderful city, quite possibly the best in the world. I respect her laws and her police, I just think this time they got it terribly wrong.

Poker is here to stay. People love poker. Poker is not a crime
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Re: Poker Raids in Asia

Postby DM101 » Sun Oct 06, 2013 11:52 pm

India

Date: 2nd Oct 2013

Source: Pokerguru
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Re: Poker Raids in Asia

Postby chenghao » Tue Oct 20, 2015 11:37 am

https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/sgpoli ... 8756086370

TWELVE ARRESTED FOR COMMON GAMING HOUSE OFFENCES

‪#‎sgpolicearrest‬

Police have arrested 12 persons, aged between 22 and 31, for offences under the Common Gaming Houses Act at a condominium in Choa Chu Kang.

Image

On 18 October 2015 at about 3.15 am, officers from Jurong Division and the Criminal Investigation Department raided the unit along Choa Chu Kang North 7 and placed nine suspects under arrest for gaming in a common gaming house and three other suspects for operating or assisting in operating a common gaming house. Cash, transactions records and other gambling-related paraphernalia were also seized by the Police. Investigations against all the suspects are ongoing.
Any person convicted of an offence of managing a place to be used as a Common Gaming House under Section 4(1)(a) of the Common Gaming Houses Act, shall be liable to a fine of not less than S$5,000 and not more than S$50,000 and shall also be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years.
Any person convicted of an offence of gaming in a Common Gaming House under Section 7 of the Common Gaming Houses Act, shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.
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