North Carolina Poker Raid Charges 40, Seizes Money

North Carolina has been a hotbed of poker for some time. Many popular professional players including former World Champion Greg Raymer, Mike Sexton, WSOP and WPT champion Michael Gracz, and tournament pro Chris Bell have all called it home presently or at one time. It also has been a hotbed for poker raids, as evidenced by the latest police activity in Fayetteville.

According to the Fayetteville Observer newspaper, city police, with the assistance of North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agents, instigated what was called by some at the tournament “a SWAT-style operation” that caught at least forty people in the building. Law enforcement officials shut the tournament down, issued gambling citations to players at the game, and proceeded to confiscate almost $12,000 in cash. Furthermore, officers also confiscated between $6,000 and $7,000 that was allegedly in play in cash games. Police then entered the vehicles of players and found two handguns, a rifle, 57 Oxycontin tablets, and small amounts of crack cocaine and marijuana.

The alleged operator of the game, Chris Lusardi of Fayetteville, also had his home raided. Police left from there with another $3,000 and he was taken into custody and charged with alcohol violations in addition to running a gaming operation.

Lt. Chris Davis of the Fayetteville Police Department said that complaints had been lodged against the location since March. The building itself contained three poker tables, two pool tables, and four large screen televisions.

This poker bust follows a raid slightly more than a year ago that cornered two prominent poker professionals in its web. In September 2007, Gracz and Bell were among 71 people taking part in a poker tournament in Benson, NC that was raided by police. Players were ticketed for gambling there as well and the police left with almost $70,000 of the players’ money.

Troubling in both of these cases is the aggressiveness of the police. Attacking with full body armor, assault weapons, and masks to conceal their identities, the officials also went to great lengths to confiscate money from people in attendance that wasn’t being wagered. In both cases, law enforcement also insinuated that the poker games being raided looked to be “large scale, casino-type operations.”

North Carolina law, however, is quite direct on the legality of poker. The North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the definition of games of chance in 2006, stating that poker falls under that definition and thus prohibits placing money on such games. It also allows for the confiscation of money on players and can reach as far as seizing the property that any poker play was taking place.

No details are presently available on what actions the players or the alleged operator will take regarding their charges. Poker News Daily will continue to follow further details as they emerge.

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