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Cards on the table for illegal poker clubs

20 January 2014

Suspected illegal poker clubs across the country are being targeted by local authorities, with support from the Gambling Commission.

Whilst investigations continue into several members’ clubs, a number have already been closed down in the last few months.

The Big Slick (also known as Shuffles) in Portsmouth is the most recent club to close after the city council withdrew the club premises certificate and cancelled the club gaming permit. The council determined that illegal poker was taking place and the club was operating as a commercial enterprise rather than being run solely for the benefit of its members.

Under the Gambling Act 2005, commercial high-stakes poker is restricted to licensed casinos. Whilst poker can be played in members’ clubs, there are various restrictions depending on whether there is a club gaming permit in place, as well as conditions on participation fees and stake and prize limits.

Gaming of the type usually provided in club premises must not be the primary or sole activity and is subject to certain conditions and a code of practice. These are designed to protect both the players and those providing the gaming facilities and ensure that gaming remains ancillary to the main purpose of the pub or club.

The Commission’s Director of Regulatory Operations, Nick Tofiluk said:

“We are committed to working closely in support of local authorities in dealing with such matters. We now have considerable experience in this field and will continue to promote good practice while dealing effectively with illegal poker clubs.

This is a matter of public protection – players taking part in illegal poker receive none of the safeguards that are in place in a casino environment, the only premises in which commercial poker may be offered.

If complaints are made that poker games are being provided at club premises contrary to the requirements of both the Licensing Act 2003 and the Gambling Act 2005, we will provide advice and guidance to the relevant licensing authorities so that action can be taken.

The message is simple – poker can’t be the primary role or sole activity of the club. If you offer poker in a club which falls outside the rules for exempt gaming, or offer commercial poker when you do not have an appropriate licence or permit, you are breaking the law.”

Note to editors

  1. The Gambling Commission (the Commission) regulates gambling in the public interest alongside its co-regulators local licensing authorities. It does so by keeping crime out of gambling, by ensuring that gambling is conducted fairly and openly, and by protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling. Subject to these overriding public protection objectives, as regulator of the National Lottery the Commission monitors and challenges Camelot to raise the maximum amount for good causes. The Commission also provides independent advice to government on gambling in Britain.
  2. The Commission and local licensing authorities are responsible for licensing and regulating all gambling in Great Britain other than spread betting, which is the responsibility of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) (opens in new tab).
  3. See the Terms & Conditions section of our website for information on legal advice (opens in new tab).
  4. Under the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in new tab), commercial high-stakes poker is restricted to licensed casinos. The Commission provides support and expertise on gambling regulation to local authorities who concentrate on gambling issues of high impact locally. The Commission’s major focus is on issues of regional or national significance.
  5. The Commission’s Local Authority Liaison Unit has worked with many local authorities to help them tackle local issues with illicit poker. In October a pair of poker clubs in Sussex were closed down.
  6. The Commission has issued quick guides on Poker in clubs (opens in new tab) and advice to distinguish between Members clubs and commercial clubs (opens in new tab).

For all media enquiries, please contact the Gambling Commission press office.

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