Posted on: May 18, 2023, 07:17h.
Last updated on: May 18, 2023, 11:44h.
Playing poker is a pastime hundreds of millions of people around the world enjoy on a regular basis. It’s usually a
rather innocuous form of gambling entertainment. But Barcelona, Spain, doesn’t see it that way. A pick-up game at a
local bar recently landed three people in jail, although there’s more to the story.
Officers with the Mossos d’Esquadra, the police force of the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia, dismantled
an illegal poker game last week in Terrassa, Barcelona. They arrested three people they caught red-handed playing at
a makeshift table in a bar.
Police surprised the players in a bar in the city with around €1,000 (US$1,080) on the table. Local law prohibits
any form of gambling without a license.
Poker Game Goes to Pot
To avoid being discovered, the unidentified players convened the games in an adjoining room in the bar, going to
great lengths to avoid detection. There was a plasterboard wall that had been meant to keep them out of view, but
this was of little use.
It’s common across Spain for law enforcement officials to make surprise and routine inspections of commercial
establishments. When agents from the Terrassa police station and the Regional Unit of the Administrative Police
entered and inspected the bar, they unexpectedly came across the game.
Along with the three people who were playing poker, two more were watching the game. The officials cited the three
players and the person in charge of the bar, but not the spectators. They were let off with a warning, although
their names will likely stay on police radars for some time.
Gambling carries certain risks. But professional gamblers know that they need to limit those risks as much as
possible. These three players were definitely not professionals, as they brought their game to an establishment that
invited a surprise police visit.
The law enforcement agents paid the bar a visit because they had received word that it might be a focal
point for illegal drugs, theft, and gambling. They were right, as once inside the bar, they also came across
three stolen electric scooters and illegal narcotics.
Officials were able to identify two of the people who had come in on the scooters and promptly arrested them for
possession of stolen property. However, they couldn’t find the third. They arrested another person for outstanding
warrants and cited another for misdemeanor possession of narcotics.
Barcelona Strict on Poker
Spain legalized gambling in 1977, but gave the 17 autonomous communities (and two autonomous cities) the right to
create their own standards. 2011 brought a countrywide update through the Spanish Gaming Act, although the
communities still had a lot of control. Even today, the regulations are constantly changing.
Barcelona has maintained strict gambling and poker rules since then. It still doesn’t view poker as a game of
skill, despite overwhelming evidence to support that position.
Therefore, it only allows cash games in its one casino, Casino Barcelona, or in its small pool of approved poker
rooms. This could be part of the reason why Hard Rock International is having difficulty with its planned project.
That doesn’t mean organizing a home game with a couple of friends would likely be a problem. However, organizing one
with 20 friends and cash pots would definitely invite trouble.