SWAT Team Raids Poker Game in Virginia, Because It Could've Gotten Robbed

Games of chance where the house


Dogs playing poker

You can marry your cousin in Virginia, but you can NOT participate in organized games of chance (except the State-sponsored ones). Virginia takes its gambling laws seriously. A few years ago Fairfax County spent $300,000 on losing bets in an effort to target a Vegas bookie and his operators in Virginia. The county used to organize regular armed raids against gamblers until a cop shot and killed optometrist Sal Culosi in a raid triggered by betting on college football.

The Fairfax County Police Department, however, continues to use its SWAT team to fight illegal gambling, recently seizing $150,000 and arresting eight people on misdemeanor charges of "illegal gambling" in a high stakes poker game at Great Falls. Because the house took a cut, police considered the operation a "criminal enterprise." The operator of the game insisted the cut was to pay dealers and assistants working the game. Even if he were turning a profit, it should never be a crime to turn a profit on consensual, non-violent actions. And when police use SWAT teams to target such actions, they're the ones introducing violence to the situation.

The Washington Post reports:

One regular at the game said he glanced out the French doors in the basement, and "I saw these helmets bobbing up and down" in the darkened backyard. The shadowy figures yelled that they were Fairfax County police with a search warrant, then opened the door and about eight officers in black marched in. "They were all yelling, 'Does anybody have a weapon?' and 'please don't move'" at the seated players, the player said. "One pointed his assault rifle at me and said, 'Hands up.' And I can't believe this is happening."

There were no guns at the table, and no resistance, the player said. "They could've sent a retired detective with a clipboard and gotten the same result," he added. He requested anonymity so as not to jeopardize the case against him or his professional career.

Cops insist the raid was a preventative measure, a pre-emptive strike of sorts, as The Post explains:

[A] regular player said the police told him, "The reason we're here is there are Asian gangs targeting these games," and it's certainly true that some private gambling events in Fairfax County have been robbed by nefarious elements. The player said he wanted to respond, "So you robbed us first," but he did not.

Legalizing gambling, and "legalizing fun" in general, would go a long way to protect poker players and other people who engage in consensual, non-violent behavior criminalized by the state. In Virginia at least, it would mean not just that game operators could call police if they were targeted by robbers, but that they could defend themselves in the case of an assault.