People behind poker game that got busted by law enforcement say they did nothing wrong

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- Several people were busted during a poker night at a bar in the Valley. Officials with the Arizona Department of Gaming says the raid was part of a seven month long investigation into a suspected illegal gambling operation.

On Wednesday night, Phoenix Police officers were joined by the Arizona Department of Liquor and the Attorney General's Office, as they descended on Toso's bar at Union Hills and 24th Avenue. They interrupted some 30 people playing poker, and seized their chips.

Gaming officials say gambling can bring crime to a neighborhood, and it is against the law in Arizona. The people behind the poker game, however, feel they did nothing wrong.

"Are you participating in illegal gambling?" asked FOX 10's Steve Krafft.

"Not at all," said John Schnaubelt with Real Poker LLC. "Is poker even gambling, first of all? It is a game of skill and it is a mind sport."

Schnaubelt believes the raid is all about protecting tribal interests.

"The tribes have claims on exclusivity over all gambling," said Schnaubelt. "They do poker. Not chess or bowling or billiards, but poker. There is an interest on Gaming Department's part on protecting that exclusivity they have over poker."

Schnaubelt believes he can make a legal argument that what he's doing is OK. Arizona Department of Gaming officials were not available for interviews, but the department notes gambling off tribal lands can lead to felony charges.

"The state has an opinion. I have an opinion. Other people have an opinion. It is up to a judge to decide what is right," said Schnaubelt.

The owner of Toso's Bar said all he did was provide drinks and food for the players. He said his liquor license was confiscated briefly, but he got it back since.