Local residents on Thappraya Road in South Pattaya thought they were watching a scene from a crime movie on Wednesday afternoon when over 50 officers which included the Military, police from Pattaya and Banglamung and members of the excise department, raided a second floor rented room above Altos restaurant.
Acting on a tip- off the authorities rounded up 26 men and 6 women all of which were foreign nationals, all over 60 years old and caught in the act of playing the popular card game: Bridge.
Indeed this was the Jomtien & Pattaya Bridge Club which had been meeting three times a week for the last 15 years or so and even have their own website.
Bridge is a favourite pastime of the elderly as it keeps their minds active much in the same way as playing Scrabble or chess.
During the raid the police identified the organizer as 74 year old Mr. Jeremy Watson originally from the UK, however the police were unable to find any money in a ‘pot’ or evidence of winners handing over money or indeed any gambling equipment other than the playing cards and a book with the names and scores of the players.
Luckily for the police they were able to state that according to an ancient law harking back to 1935 of section 8 of the Playing Cards Act, no individual is allowed to have more than 120 cards at any one time in their possession.
There was considerably more than 120 cards at the Bridge Club that night as each of the eight tables would have at least one deck of cards for the four players however this didn’t really amount to over 120 cards per individual, but that didn’t seem to matter to the police.
The police stated that in addition to contravening Section 8 of the Playing Cards Act of 1935 it became apparent that the cards being used by the Bridge Club did not have an official government seal on the card boxes, which is apparently illegal.
The games were brought to a halt and all of the players were escorted to the local police station for further questioning which apparently continued for many hours and they were only released after each paying 5000 baht for bail.
The chief of Banglamung District had given the go ahead for the raid to take place, however after talks with him and the President of the Contract Bridge of Thailand the local police decided that the matter would not have to go to court.
This bust as funny as it seems does bring a shadow of doubt for the many Bridge Clubs in Thailand and also for those who play cards for fun. The local Thais tell us that all forms of playing cards is illegal, be it for money or not. Clarification on this matter would be of great interest to the public and perhaps as part of the nationwide reform, one of the matters that could be looked into is the Playing Cards Act of 1935.
In the meantime the schedule of future games for the Jomtien & Pattaya Bridge Club have been suspended with a message on their website stating: “Closed temporarily whilst we get a new licence to have cards on the premises – all problems have been solved with understanding by the authorities”