Thursday, Sep. 11, 2014

Poker and UK Law, Frequently Asked Questions

The Regulatory Framework that governs Poker in the UK is the Gambling Act 2005. Below are common questions and answers that I hope you find useful.

Can I play Poker at Home?

Luckily, we don’t live in a Police State and playing poker at home between friends is perfectly fine. You can even stake a bit of money. Importantly, the participants must be your legitimate guests or friends and you cannot invite members of the public to join in. The Act does not define who your friends are…

You cannot ask people to pay to take part in the game.  One way to get around this is that your ‘friends’ can bring in drinks and food and this can be a ‘token’ to take part in the games, that is if you are playing a tournament and would like to ‘charge’ players a ‘fee’. This can work too for cash games in that instead of participants paying the rake, they can all pitch in and pay for pizza, beer or strippers.

There is no limit on the stakes and prizes you can play poker with at home with your ‘friends’.

You can play (strip) poker in student halls of residence, as long as the other players are exclusively or mainly students resident in that establishment and you do not charge for participating or take any money from the stakes or prizes.

You can also play poker at your local village or church hall as long as you comply with the conditions for private gaming, that is that there is no charge for participation (excluding stakes) and the public do not have access to the venue.

You can also run a poker night for charity which is a great way to raise funds.

Can I play Poker at Work?

If that means playing online while you should be working, you can yes but it is not recommended! On the other hand, you can organise poker games or play poker in the workplace (with colleagues of course) as long as you comply with the conditions for private gaming in the Gambling Act 2005. These conditions are that there is no charge for participation (excluding stakes) and members of the public do not have access to the venue. You can set up an event where different companies in the same industry play against one another and that would comply with the Act.

There are no limits on the stakes you can play or the prizes you can win, when playing poker at work with colleagues. I saw once an interesting play regarding high stakes poker in the workplace called ‘Dealer’s Choice’. Let’s just say it didn’t end well…

You can also run a poker night for charity and this is great PR for the company.

Can I Organise Poker or Play Poker in a Members’ Club?

You are allowed to run what is known as exempt equal chance gaming, including poker, in members’ clubs, miners’ institutes and commercial clubs, as long as poker is not the main purpose of your club. Examples include working men’s clubs, branches of the Royal British Legion and clubs with political affiliations.

You must be able to demonstrate that you have a genuine and legitimate club membership scheme and, where required, hold a club premises certificate granted by your local licensing authority. Your club must also have at least 25 members and must be permanent.

Section 269

2) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the amount that may be staked by a person on any game of poker must not exceed £10.

(3) Subject to paragraph (4), the aggregate of the amounts that may be staked on games of poker in any one day must not exceed £250.

(4) The aggregate of the amounts that may be staked on games of poker in any period of seven days must not exceed £1,000.

Poker at Non-Commercial Events

Poker may be played at non-commercial events under section 300 of the Gambling Act. Poker, or equal chance gaming more generally, may be the main or sole purpose of the event, but none of the proceeds of a non-commercial event may be used for private gain. These provisions are intended to be used by charities and other non-commercial societies for fund-raising purposes.

There are limits on the amounts that players may be charged to take part, and on the amount or value of the prizes. The maximum amount that a player may be charged is £8 per day (and this includes entrance fees, stakes and any other charges in relation to the gaming). The total amount paid out in prizes may not exceed £600, although where an event is the final one of a series in which all of the players have previously taken part, a higher prize fund of up to £900 is permitted (please note that the earlier events must have taken place on a different day to the final).

The organiser must not take any amount of money from the stakes or winnings, and they must comply with the regulations in the Gambling Act 2005. If they do not comply with these conditions, licensing authorities (enforcement officers) have the power to take action against them in a range of circumstances as demonstrated with the Gutshot Poker Club, London in 2007 being fined £10,000for operating without a licence.


Organisers can also raise money to fund your club or society’s activities through games of equal chance, such as poker.

Can I Raise Money for Charity With a Poker Game/Tournament?

Yes, that’s an excellent idea. The participants must be told what good cause is to benefit from the profits of the gaming.

Under-18s are allowed to participate and are already probably the most skilled players there. :)

Stakes and Prizes

No matter how many games you run or a participant expects to play in, they must not make more than one payment (whether as an admission or participation fee, stake or other charge, or a combination of those charges), and this payment must not exceed £8.

The total amount or value of prizes for all the games played at your event must not exceed £600. If you are running more than one event on the same premises and the same day, you must still comply with the £8 participation fee and £600 total prize limit.

If you are running a series of events held on separate days, the limits of £8 and £600 apply separately to each event.  In the final event of a series, where people have qualified by playing at previous events, the total amount or value of prizes for all the games played at the final event can be up to £900.

The money you raise from the event is called the proceeds. None of the proceeds should be used for private gain. You should give all proceeds to the ‘good cause’ (including any entrance fees, sponsorship, fees for traders stalls and other fees), minus the costs reasonably incurred by organising the event.  Reasonable costs would include costs incurred by providing the prizes. The Act does not define what a good cause is but it is likely to mean what a reasonable person would believe it means.

If third parties are selling goods or services at your event, for example someone selling refreshments, this does not count as money raised for the charity or good cause. They on the other hand are allowed to make a profit. The Act does not define whether you are allowed to make a ‘cut’ out of what the persons selling refreshments make…

Can I Run an Online Poker Site?

If any part of your equipment is based in Great Britain and you want to run a website providing poker or any other casino games, you will need a remote casino operating licence from the Gambling Commission. Be aware that you will be under the UK’s tax regime and there are more generous tax regimes available within the European Union.

Further Guidance

Advice on non-commercial and private gaming and betting - January 2010

Code of practice for equal chance gaming in clubs and premises with an alcohol licence - December 2009

Advice on gaming in clubs and alcohol licensed premises - Gambling Act 2005 - September 2008

Alexandre Rotenberg & Simon Dehaney LLB LPC