A magistrate has ruled that poker players of a private Belfast club raided by police at the weekend should get their money back.
The raid took place during a poker game in which the police ordered up to 200 players, including respected members of the community, to stop playing.
The Cavendish is a well known club featuring on Sky TV and hosting the online Texas Hold’em Poker Open.
The court was told the police took action due to the number of similar clubs recently opening, the raid being carried out under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusement (NI) Order 1985.
After seizing over £23,000 from the Cavendish Club police lodged a Proceeds of Crime application at Belfast Magistrates Court in order to retain the money as evidence.
Sean Murphy, the club’s owner, stated to the court that the club did not make a profit; he purely wanted to put down a marker in case casinos were legalized in Northern Ireland.
The purpose of the Proceeds of Crime legislation is to deal with elements causing harm to society through drugs or other nefarious activities; Magistrate Desmond Perry believed this was not the case with the Cavendish club, adding that Mr. Murphy was a respectable businessman who had not disputed the source of the money.
“I see no reason for the further detention of this money and it is left to Mr. Murphy to se that it is returned to those people to whom it belongs because I feel he won’t be re-opening the Cavendish Club,” Mr. Perry added.
Mr. Murphy stated he would do his best to comply with the magistrate’s wishes.
Kevin Winters, the defense solicitor added “The law covering the playing of poker needs to be sorted out.
“My client is satisfied with the outcome of the case but takes issue with the heavy-handed manner in which this case was brought to court.”