Poker in Pubs and Poker in Clubs are explanatory leaflets distributed by the Gambling Commission for the purposes of illustrating to publicans and the public the rules and requirements for those that want a game of poker in their local.
What the leaflet tells International Poker Club is that there is a huge disparity between the laws as they stand, and the Gambling Commission’s stated objectives:-
- Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way.
- Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
At the moment, if you want a game of Dominoes or Cribbage, you’re allowed to gamble as much as you want. There are no rules on stake limits or prize limits. But, if you want a game of poker, you’re restricted to a maximum stake of £5 per game, with no more than £100 to be staked within the pub (by all patrons) in a day, or £250 in a week. Those rules also stipulate that a game is not a single hand, so no getting around that one. The rules call for the pub to designate a responsible person to oversee the amount of money in play and ensure limits are not breached, with severe penalties for any contravention.
So the rules are very restrictive and in most cases mean that the publican just wont allow you to play poker at all, understandable when it could be their license on the line.
Ironically, if you gamble on your phone or laptop, whether in the pub or at home, its perfectly fine to bet as much as you want. How it can be in the interests of social cohesion to say “you can’t have a sociable, friendly game in a pub with your mates, but you can sit at home on your own and go nuts” is beyond us. Especially when online poker companies cross-advertise with sports betting and casino games. If you were at risk, it would be significantly safer to be with your friends and family in the pub when you have a bet.
The same laws that prevent poker in pubs also prevent bespoke Poker Clubs from existing in the UK. You can’t operate a business that makes money from poker (via a rake or entry fee for example) unless you are A) offshore, or B) a Casino. So, yet again if you want to have a game of poker, you’re restricted to playing at home, whether online or with friends, or you’re forced to go to a fully-fledged casino, with all it’s other games, Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat…. By the Gambling Commission’s own reckoning, poker is ‘equal-chance betting’ but the rules actively push poker players into settings where banker’s or unequal-chance betting flourishes. How does that help anyone but the casinos and off-shore internet gaming companies?
So lets look at a few scenarios…
- Want to sit at a Fruit Machine and pile in a hundred quid? Gambling Commission says: No problem, fill your boots.
- Want to sit at the bar and bet £5k on your phone with an offshore tax-haven? Gambling Commission says: Absolutely, go for it.
- Want to play Dominoes or Cribbage for a tenner? Gambling Commission says: Of course you can.
- Want a game of poker for a tenner? Gambling Commission says: Uh, no. That would put you at risk – better go to a casino, much safer.
Cribbage and Dominoes are friendly, sociable games. They are no different to Poker in that respect. It’s clearly time to revisit the gaming laws around poker in pubs and clubs to enable this friendly, social game to flourish openly, whilst generating additional revenue for struggling British pubs. Its not in the interests of UK Plc to put the profits of off-shore and casino companies above the needs of poker players and publicans, especially at a time when the hospitality industry is in crisis following the Covid pandemic.
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