Can we play poker in our local pub?

Generally speaking, no.  If poker is played in a pub “for money or money’s worth” then it is unlawful gaming, unless the licensing authority has granted a Section 6 permit for the premises.  This permit will state the level of stakes and prizes that may be involved.  The Gambling Act 2005 (the Act) seeks to keep gaming in pubs ‘low stakes’ and ancillary to the premises main purpose – i.e. the gaming should not be an inducement to go to the premises and no charge may be made for playing or levy may be made on the stakes or the ‘pot’.  Only dominoes and cribbage may be played for money or money’s worth without a Section 6 permit being granted.  If poker is played without money or prizes then it is not ‘gaming’.  Whilst this may allow ‘points’ etc. to be won, the points cannot be exchanged for a prize, as this would amount to money’s worth.

Can I set up a poker club or poker games in a private members club?

Under Section 40 poker can be carried out as ‘one of the activities of a club’.  This would imply that the club should exist for other purposes than solely for poker.  The Club must have at least 25 bona fide members and have bona fide membership arrangements and fees.  There should be no access to the public, i.e. anyone who is not a member cannot simply turn up and ‘join’.  The only charge that can be made for playing poker in these circumstances is 60p per day or an additional £2 a day if the club is registered under part II of the Act.  There is no limit on the stakes in these circumstances, but no levy can be charged on the stakes or ‘pot’.

Can I run a poker night for charity?

Under Section 41 it is possible to run a poker night for charity.  The whole of the proceeds after deduction of expenses including the prize must be donated to charity.  The maximum that can be charged in respect of all games played is £4.  This fee must cover the expenses, the prize and the donation to charity.  The maximum prize that can be awarded is £400.  The amount that should be allocated for expenses should not exceed the reasonable cost of providing the facilities for the gaming.

Why are there such restrictions on poker?

Across the world ‘Games of chance for money or money’s worth’ are invariably subject to legal controls.  This is to protect the players and games from unfair or criminal exploitation.  Poker is an ‘escalating’ game, and players may be drawn into risking larger and larger amounts without appreciating the odds of losing.

Can we play poker if there are no cash prizes?

Playing games of chance becomes ‘Gaming’ if they are played for ‘money or moneys worth’. This means that anything that has a value is classed the same as cash, even if it is not immediately available or does not come from the other players.  It would therefore be just as illegal to play for prizes as for cash.

Can we play for fun?

If no-one can win or lose ‘money or money’s worth’ then the game does not amount to ‘Gaming’ and can be played.

Can we set up a poker tournament?

A poker tournament would have to be held on premises with no access to the public; with access arrangements similar to the membership requirements described in question 2, i.e. the participants must form a restricted class of persons distinct from the general public, so there must be some system of vetting and inviting participants.  You cannot just advertise for players.  There may also be further restrictions if the tournament is being held on (liquor) licensed premises.  In all cases it is advisable to seek legal advice on the proposals for any poker tournament.

Is poker a game of skill or chance?

Whilst there are different levels of skill amongst poker players, the Gaming Act makes clear that even games of skill and chance combined are games of chance.

Can I get a poker licence?

Due to the forthcoming changes in gaming laws, the Commission is no longer accepting applications for Certificates of Consent for new gaming premises under the 1968 Act.  New arrangements will be introduced in 2007 for new gaming premises (casinos).

Can I run an online poker site?

Yes, but the server and any facilities for processing the transactions must be based abroad.  From January 2007 the Commission will be accepting applications for such operator licences to permit on line casinos to be based in Britain from September 2007.

What card games can we play with a liquor licence?

The only card game that can be played for small stakes on premises with a liquor licence is cribbage, unless the licensee obtains permission from the local Licensing Authority under Section 6 for other card games to be played for small stakes.

Can we play poker in our Student Union bar?

If the Student Union is a club or registered club with bona fide members and membership fees then the same rules apply as with a private members club.  If not then the same rules would apply as for a pub.  Poker can be played in halls of residence providing the players are exclusively or mainly students who are resident in the establishment.

Can we play poker at home?

Poker in residential premises is permitted, but those participating must be legitimate guests/friends of the occupant, i.e. members of the public cannot be invited to join in; nor can a charge be made for the gaming to take place.

How can I take action if a pub is running illegal poker?

Notify the local Licensing Authority or the Gambling Commission.

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