Online Gambling

? You Gotta' Know When to Hold 'Em. Know When to Fold 'Em. Know When to Walk Away. Know When to Get the Fuck on the Floor and Put Your Hands on Your Head…?

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More paramilitary raids on poker rooms, in Georgia this month, and in North Carolina last month.

The latter included a small army of police officers from several police agencies, including the federal BATF and the National Guard. They even brought a damned helicopter. They issued 41 citations, all of them misdemeanors.

Police in Cary, North Carolina gave the same excuse for the show of force that the cops in Dallas gave when they sent out the SWAT teams to raid poker games in that city: While not prone to violence themselves, poker rooms are often robbed. Therefore, they sometimes have armed guards. Therefore, police have to use overwhelming force.

I don't know that it's true that poker games are regularly knocked off by armed bandits. Nor are they particularly dangerous. I've been to a couple. And I've gotten email from people who were at games that were raided in Dallas. These games are frequented by poker enthusiasts, not mobsters. I suspect the local authorities may have been watching too much Sopranos

But even if the theory is true, the show of force doesn't make a lick of sense. Let's assume the game does have armed guards. Put yourself in the guards' position. You've been hired to make sure a black market poker game doesn't get knocked off by armed intruders. Under which scenario are you more likely to use your gun: (A) Several uniformed cops knock on the door, identify themselves, come into the room, and break up the game, or, (B) several men dressed in black or camouflage and packing heat storm the place without warning, screaming and shouting obscenities?

The SWAT fetishists will tell you that SWAT is still the safer option, because the overwhelming force disables the guards before they can react. I say that's wishful thinking. Ask Edward Reed, who was working security at a Virginia Beach club raided by the local SWAT team serving a gambling warrant. Oops. You can't ask him. He's dead. His last words, directed at the SWAT team, were, "Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book." And of course, there's Sal Culosi, also the dead victim of the local police department's policy of serving a gambling warrant with the SWAT team.

This editorial writer at the Fayetteville Observer gets to the grist of the issue, while smothering it with a couple gravy ladles of folksy wisdom:

Should the U.S. Department of Defense throw its great bulk into local law enforcement operations meant to bring people to justice for civil misdemeanors that might net them a fine and, maybe, 60 days in jail?

[…]

Maybe you already know all about the National Guard Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection program. I didn't. So, after breaking my nails on a few bureaucratic walls (Cary PD, governor's office, Crime Control and Public Safety, Alcohol Law Enforcement), I Googled it and quickly discovered that it's all over the place — spotting marijuana from the air, interacting with kids at school, routine law enforcement stuff. Problem is, it's not a law enforcement agency. It's the military.

[…]

They were there to play cards, not to foment rebellion. Now, what was it about this operation that demanded backup not only from the state Bureau of Alcohol Law Enforcement and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but also from the U.S. military? Ahem: What did the warrants say?

It's only a guess, but I'd say Cary called for National Guard RAID simply because it's available and it's willing. Which leaves me wondering what other minutiae, personal vices and petty crimes are occupying its time, and where they're occupying it. Coulda sworn somebody told me there's a war on.

Until we get this sorted out, better not jaywalk. There could be a military helicopter overhead.

Hey, it could be worse. In Britain, they're considering sending cops into people's homes for unpaid parking tickets.

NEXT: Good News/Bad News on Congressional Approval Ratings

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  1. My favorite t-shirt and sig file:
    “Marxism is the opiate of dumbasses”

    So, let’s see, it is a paramilitary raid if the people breaking a well-known law are armed and the cops show up armed?

    Yes, I am with you about how playing poker *should* be legal, even will go to the “racical” (on this site) extent to abolish lotteries and bring back “the numbers” (that some gambling-ignorant did not know was the “free-market lottery”), but this is getting a little out there.

    If it is that slow of a news day, just check the Sunday New York Times book review of “Framing the Debate” by that poor Feldman fellow.

  2. My favorite t-shirt and sig file:
    “Marxism is the opiate of dumbasses”

    So, let’s see, it is a paramilitary raid if the people breaking a well-known law are armed and the cops show up armed?

    Yes, I am with you about how playing poker *should* be legal, even will go to the “racical” (on this site) extent to abolish lotteries and bring back “the numbers” (that some gambling-ignorant did not know was the “free-market lottery”), but this is getting a little out there.

    If it is that slow of a news day, just check the Sunday New York Times book review of “Framing the Debate” by that poor Feldman fellow.

  3. Except that there were no armed guards. In both raids they found a total of one gun. In somebody’s car. In the parking lot. Out of about more than 100 people.

    The cops brought a military helicopter and the National Guard on the justification that they thought people who play poker are probably usually armed.

    Except they weren’t. And generally aren’t.

  4. “While not prone to violence themselves, poker rooms are often robbed. Therefore, they have sometimes have armed guards. Therefore, police have to use overwhelming force.”

    Why? Are the police planning on robbing the joint?

  5. What really sucks is I live on the side of a hill so when the black helicopters do the fly byes they are looking right into the windows.

    Nice Shirt, Guy.

  6. Whatever happened to “Protect and Serve”? As far as I can tell, whether these raids are safer for the public or not never enters the minds of these police officers. Sure, they make the right noises about it being safer for the public, but the reality is that all they care about is their own skins. And it disgusts me. Serving warrants can be dangerous. Well, that’s what the police are paid to do. Not to get hard-ons running around playing soldier.

    So, let’s see, it is a paramilitary raid if the people breaking a well-known law are armed and the cops show up armed?

    Yes, yes it is. Even had these players been armed, they are suburban middle class people. They’re not likely to shoot back at the police; these aren’t mobsters. As Mr. Balko said, if two uniformed cops show up to serve the warrant, nothing untoward will happen. They’re not going to think, “I can’t go away for gambling! I have nothing to lose, so I might as well shoot the cops.” They’re going to come along quietly, not serve any jail time, and get off with probation (if that). Shooting a cop will not happen.

    And even if it did, well, tough shit. As I said, being a cop is a dangerous job. Better that one cop should die in the course of his duty than ten civilians that he is ostensibly there to protect and serve. You’re in the military, Guy; that’s how good soldiers I served with thought about it. Even if these people are criminals, they’re nonviolent and committing minor crimes (often misdemeanors). Getting dressed up and playing soldier does nothing to protect the civilians, and little to protect the police.

  7. Here we go again. I disfavor gambling, as I find it (I believe by definition) irrational. But these stories make me want to start a little poker game somewhere just to oppose brutality. Yet I won’t, since it’s more prudent to save/invest my money in order to oppose tyranny, who knows how.

  8. Anyone who has ever seen and old James Cagney movie knows that cops are supposed to stay outside behind there cars and use a bullhorn to tell everyone to come out with there hands up… why force the issue be storming the place with guns drawn??? I’m sure it would take less than 5 minutes for the police department to find out what the suspects phone number is… why don’t they just call them and tell them they are surrounded and to all come out peacefully??? I’m sure there are even safer ways to do it, but if I, an average dumb shit, can come up with safer alternatives, why can’t the cops???

  9. I like to play porker very much. I don’t want the well-armed police appear in the room and break the game….can never bear the damned helicopter..

  10. Radley

    again, you show a passion for the story and the details. Good stuff.

  11. I disfavor gambling, as I find it (I believe by definition) irrational.

    Bit of a broad judgement there. Some of it is (roulette, slots), some of it you can win at with proper skill (blackjack, poker, horseracing). And ultimately it can be just plain old fun. Does everything have to be rational? I gamble *and* invest. Although some ask me to explain the difference sometimes. 🙂

  12. So, the US government likes to shoot people for playing poker but IT COULD BE WORSE because someone in the UK has written a discussion paper suggesting unarmed bailiffs be sent round to collect unpaid fines…

  13. I disfavor gambling, as I find it (I believe by definition) irrational.

    Poker isn’t gambling. Don’t let the presence of playing cards fool you.

  14. OK, so, thanks to Mr. Balko’s reporting, we know of all these ridiculous raids taking place all over the nation. I agree that most of them are senseless and that there are other ways of apprehending “criminals”. So, what can we, the people, do about it? You keep pointing out these stories, but where’s the “call to arms” that’s needed in order to put a stop to this foolishness? Are we just supposed to read it, say, “that’s too bad”, and go on our merry way?

    Also, although it may be defined as “gambling”, and although luck is occasionally involved, poker really is a game of skill more than anything.

  15. So, what can we, the people, do about it? You keep pointing out these stories, but where’s the “call to arms” that’s needed in order to put a stop to this foolishness? Are we just supposed to read it, say, “that’s too bad”, and go on our merry way?

    What you mean “we”, paleface?

    Get rid of the collectivist assumptions and try looking at the problem again.

  16. I don’t play poker and have no desire to, but this is ridiculous. I should have the right to do what I want with my money, provided I har no one.

  17. provided I har no one

    provided I harm no one

  18. But if a team of uniformed cops comes to the door, knocks, and displays a warrant to the owner/proprietor, the gamblers will have time to flush the roulette wheel down the toilet.

  19. “Tym | April 11, 2007, 9:04am | #
    provided I har no one
    provided I harm no one”

    probably you should avoid both. Leave your Smith and Wesson Glock 88 magnum (it shoots through schools), as well as your novelty teeth at home.

    “But if a team of uniformed cops comes to the door,”

    How are you going to come?
    With your hands on your head
    Or on the trigger of your gun?

  20. The SWAT fetishists will tell you that SWAT is still the safer option,

    They are much closer to the truth when you realize they don’t give a fuck about the safety of civilians, only of the cops.

    I wonder how many dead innocents Our Law Enforcement Masters are willing to pile up to prevent one cop from taking a bullet?

  21. I wonder how many dead innocents Our Law Enforcement Masters are willing to pile up to prevent one cop from taking a bullet?

    My guess? All of ’em.

  22. They are much closer to the truth when you realize they don’t give a fuck about the safety of civilians, only of the cops.

    I don’t know that police are any safer in SWAT situations than they would be if uniformed cops they simply knocked and served a warrant. Logically, the odds of someone getting into a shootout with someone that they know is a cop should be much lower.

  23. “””Whatever happened to “Protect and Serve”?”””

    More and more, law enforcement are getting the “us versus them” attitude toward the citizenry. They have little to no respect for us as people, they just see people as criminals or potential criminals. They feel that they are fighting the “enemy” and no rules should apply. It is the ever widening chasm of militarism.

    Our republic is being strangled from within, just as the founding fathers warned. Maybe we, as a whole, are no longer worthy of freedom. The nation, as a whole, doesn’t seem to care and many seem to support the move toward militarism waving the American flag.

    Freedom = Slavery. You have the obligation to submit to a cop or he has the right to kill you.

    RC and Jake are right. To protect and serve, once meant a cop would take a bullet to protect the public, it was consider the ulitmate sacrifice. Now the ulitmate sacrifice means you take the bullet for them.

  24. I thought there was a federal law against using the military against American citizens. I cannot remember the name of the bill, but this would seem like a violation of it.

  25. Posse Comitatus; it sounds dirty, so Congress repealed it.

  26. Brooks is not exactly right, it does sound dirty but they did not repeal it. They did modify it for the new post 9/11 Amerika. The National Guard is allowed to provided support to law enforcement. The use of aircraft, intelligence equipment, spying and such. The term support could be streched to cover anything short of putting a gun in your face. I’m sure this administration could make the argument that if the National Guard did it all themselves, they are “supporting” law enforcement efforts.

  27. More and more, law enforcement are getting the “us versus them” attitude toward the citizenry. They have little to no respect for us as people, they just see people as criminals or potential criminals.

    Not just law enforcement. Prosecutors are using the same attitude. “I’ll teach him to refuse a plea bargain,” etc. In fact, it might be the whole government.

    These folks have lots of hammers, and they’re starting to look at each of us as a nail.

  28. Just playing a hunch here, but I’m, um, betting none of those Dallas raids occurred in Preston Hollow. Frankly, the absence of more guns, at least in Dallas, is what surprises me the most.

    Be that as it may, as far as the British approach is concerned, the prospect of home invasion by cops will soon be overtaken by appropriate technology when the loudspeaker next to the camera in the typical Brit’s council flat living room keeps blaring “Pay up those traffic tickets, you deadbeat wanker!”

  29. More and more, law enforcement are getting the “us versus them” attitude toward the citizenry. They have little to no respect for us as people, they just see people as criminals or potential criminals. They feel that they are fighting the “enemy” and no rules should apply. It is the ever widening chasm of militarism.

    And the reason for this is ‘zero tolerance’ law enforcement of consensual behavior. With traditional crimes like burglary, assault, robbery, and so forth, there was always a victim who was needing help. So for every scumbag that the police dealt with, there was a citizen that needed help. There was balance between good people and bad people that they had to deal with.

    With the advent of gambling laws and prohibition, the police are being asked to enforce laws for which there are no victims. No one is asking for help. All the police see are bad guys and potential bad guys. This has to be profoundly damaging to the policeman’s psyche. The only way that they can cope with being asked to go out and risk their lives against desperate criminals when there’s no grateful victim waiting to see justice done is to adopt this ‘we must assert our authority’ mentality.

    The root of the problem is not the police themselves. While power corrupts, it can be mitigated by a sense of purpose. What is corrupting our police force is us asking them to do a job that nobody wants done.

    If/when we allow the police to return to protecting the populace from external harm rather than against its own temptations, the need and motivation for extreme paramilitary raids will be eliminated. People will respect the police again, because the police will be working for us not against us.

  30. Good post Lunch.
    I must say it could be debated if drugs or gambling is victimless. I’m sure someone will argue that if you do drugs you and your family and friends become victims. If you gamble all your money away, you could lose your residence and put you and your family on the street. Not to mention the business that become a victim because you can’t pay your bills. Of course the biggest victim would be yourself. What’s the odds that some cops hold the belief that if your willing to “victimize” yourself you should be shot?

    I don’t personally agree with the everyone’s a victim if… ideology.

    “””If/when we allow the police to return to protecting the populace from external harm rather than against its own temptations, the need and motivation for extreme paramilitary raids will be eliminated.””””

    Well, I dislike the above statement, not to any fault of your own. It just that our government is increasing its efforts in protecting us from ourselves. Therefore, if I were to agree with the above statment it would mean an INCREASE of extreme paramilitary raids in the future.

  31. Except that there were no armed guards. In both raids they found a total of one gun. In somebody’s car. In the parking lot. Out of about more than 100 people.

    The cops brought a military helicopter and the National Guard on the justification that they thought people who play poker are probably usually armed.

    Except they weren’t. And generally aren’t.

    Well, when those details are brought to my attention I agree with you more on this issue 🙂

    However, now I miss flying National Guard helicopters.

    In other news, I might get to ride in some if I go to work in the Orient next month!

  32. Brooks is not exactly right, it does sound dirty but they did not repeal it. They did modify it for the new post 9/11 Amerika. The National Guard is allowed to provided support to law enforcement. The use of aircraft, intelligence equipment, spying and such. The term support could be streched to cover anything short of putting a gun in your face. I’m sure this administration could make the argument that if the National Guard did it all themselves, they are “supporting” law enforcement efforts.

    We were “allowed” to provide LEO support long before that as I legally participated in during the 1990s. Just can’t have arrest power without some declairations and politician paperwork.

  33. I’m not saying that the NG started support missions after 9/11, certainly they were allowed to do so prior. Although I can see how my sentence arrangement might lead to to view it that way. I’m merely pointing out that it is expanding after Congress changed the Possie Comtitus act.

    Sorry for the confusion.

  34. I’m sure there are even safer ways to do it, but if I, an average dumb shit, can come up with safer alternatives, why can’t the cops???

    Because the average cop is much, much dumber than the average dumb shit.

  35. “What is corrupting our police force is us asking them to do a job that nobody wants done.”

    Somebody must want it done.

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