Barcelona, Spain, Bar Sees Three Arrested for Playing Poker

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.

Police in Terrassa, Barcelona participate in an operation
Police in Terrassa, Barcelona participate in an operation. They recently arrested three people for playing poker in a local bar. (Image: El Español)

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.