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Guidance to licensing authorities

The Gambling Commission's guidance for licensing authorities.


Appendix H: Poker games and prizes

The overall winner wins the pot in each game and wins an overall prize based on points

If the tournament winner played three games in the whole tournament, and his winnings (from the pot) in each of these games were £100, £70 and £60 respectively, each game would fall under the £100 prize limit. This would leave £0 from the first game, £30 from the second game and £40 from the third game, which could be put towards the winner’s overall tournament prize. In these circumstances, the tournament prize could be up to £70 (£0 + £30 + £40). Thus, where the pot in individual games is under £100, the tournament winner’s overall prize must not exceed the aggregate of the shortfall in each of the games he plays.

The overall winner is only awarded points in each game and wins an overall prize based on points

Let’s still assume that the tournament winner plays three games in the whole tournament. If there is no individual prize in any of the three games, then the overall prize can be up to £300 (£100 for each game the winner has played). If, on the other hand, the winner played in only two games, then his overall prize may not exceed £200, and so on. Please note that the relevant number of games is the games in which the winning player participated, and not only the games that they won.

Organisers of such competitions will therefore need to work out the total value of any overall prize with reference to the number of games to be played by the overall winner and the total pot (if any) in each game.

While ‘non-cash’ poker for points leagues can provide harmless and legal entertainment, those promoting such leagues should be aware of the Commission’s code of practice on equal chance gaming and take steps to prevent individual stakes limits being exceeded through side bets or illegal activity such as agreements to ‘settle’ games outside the gaming area. Where illegal activity is detected, licensing authorities should consider the removal of the alcohol licensed premises’ exemption, which allows poker and other exempt gaming to be played.

The overall winner is only awarded points in each game and wins an overall prize such as the opportunity to participate in a major poker tournament, casino vouchers, holidays etc

In these circumstances, tournament organisers must ensure that the statutory limits for poker in alcohol licensed premises and clubs are complied with. In particular, they must carefully consider the value of the prizes offered for games leading up to the tournament final (including money’s worth or non-monetary prizes such as holidays, cars, casino vouchers, or buy-ins or seats at the final). In addition, organisers should take into account that where players are competing across premises for an overall prize, they are likely to be engaged in linked gaming, which is not permitted.

Free or donated prizes are awarded to players in addition to the maximum prize pools for poker in clubs and alcohol licensed premises

The Act refers to money or money’s worth in respect of prizes. This would include free or donated prizes which have an intrinsic value. Any prizes offered in addition to the prize pool must remain within the limits for prizes in games of poker in clubs and alcohol licensed premises. The prize limit is £250 per game in a club and £100 per game in a pub. Therefore, for example, if the prize pool available for a particular game is £80, then any non-monetary prizes must not have a value exceeding £20.

Poker is offered in a members’ club or miners’ welfare institute with a club gaming permit

Members’ clubs or miners’ welfare institutes with club gaming permits may offer poker with unlimited stakes and prizes, but the only persons who may participate in such gaming are club members and their genuine guests. In this regard, the club must be able to demonstrate that it has a genuine and legitimate club membership scheme. Clubs must also ensure that the statutory limits on participation fees are not exceeded. The limit for bridge and whist is £20 and for other gaming is £3. In addition, there is a limit of a maximum of £2,000 per week in stakes and prizes for bingo in a members’ club or welfare institute. If it is the intention of the club or institute to exceed these limits, it will be necessary for them to apply for an operating licence.

What constitutes ‘money’s worth’?

Money’s worth relates to the realistic value of the prize offered. It includes emoluments, vouchers, goods or other items which have a value. A prize such as a ‘goody bag’ would be considered money’s worth and is, therefore, subject to the statutory limits for exempt gaming. Donated prizes would also be considered money’s worth. This would include prizes such as the buy-ins at major poker tournaments or the opportunity to participate in poker tournaments at venues such as Monte Carlo, especially as this type of prize is likely to include the cost of the airfare and accommodation.

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Appendix G: Licensing authority delegations
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Appendix I: Glossary of terms
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