Page last updated at 18:05 GMT, Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Poker players to get seized cash

Poker table
Police confiscated about 23,000 from poker players

Poker players who had cash seized by police in a raid at a private club in Belfast at the weekend should get their money back, a magistrate has ruled.

Police had lodged a Proceeds of Crime application at Belfast Magistrates Court to retain the money as evidence.

More than 23,000 was seized during a search of the Cavendish Club on Corporation Street on Saturday, along with other gambling equipment.

A poker game was taking place in the club at the time.

Police had ordered up to 200 players - including doctors and lawyers - to stop playing.

Club owner Sean Murphy
Club owner Sean Murphy said it was not being run for profit
Well-known in poker circles, the club has hosted the online Texas Hold'em poker Open and is often featured on Sky TV.

The raid was carried out under the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusement Order 1985.

The court was told that police took action because of the number of similar clubs which have recently opened up.

'Not nefarious'

Club owner Sean Murphy said in evidence that his club did not make a profit, but he wanted to put down a marker in the event that casinos might be legalised in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK.

Magistrate Desmond Perry said the prime purpose of the Proceeds of Crime legislation was to deal with elements causing society harm through drugs or other nefarious activities, but the Cavendish Club was anything but this.

He said Mr Murphy was a respectable businessman who had not disputed where the money came from.

"I see no reason for the further detention of this money and it is left to Mr Murphy to see 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.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Murphy said he would do his best to comply with Mr Perry's wishes.

Defence solicitor Kevin Winters said: "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."

PSNI try to hold on to poker cash
31 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland

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