Cookies on the Gambling Commission website

The Gambling Commission website uses cookies to make the site work better for you. Some of these cookies are essential to how the site functions and others are optional. Optional cookies help us remember your settings, measure your use of the site and personalise how we communicate with you. Any data collected is anonymised and we do not set optional cookies unless you consent.

Set cookie preferences

You've accepted all cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time.

Skip to main content


Guidance to licensing authorities

The Gambling Commission's guidance for licensing authorities.


4 - Poker as non-commercial gaming

29.33. The Act permits non-commercial gaming if it takes place at a non-commercial event, either as an incidental or principal activity at the event. Events are non-commercial if no part of the proceeds is for private profit or gain. The proceeds of such events may benefit one or more individuals if the activity is organised:

  • by, or on behalf of, a charity or for charitable purposes
  • to enable participation in, or support of, sporting, athletic or cultural activities.

So, it would be possible to raise funds for an individual providing the proceeds were, for example, for a wheelchair or to support a sporting endeavour. Additionally, events such as casino nights or poker nights may be permitted if they comply with the regulations and are run on a non-commercial basis.

29.34. S.297(3) of the Act defines proceeds as:

  1. the sums raised by the organisers, whether by way of fees for entrance or for participation, by way of sponsorship, by way of commission from traders, or otherwise, minus
  2. amounts deducted by the organisers in respect of costs reasonably incurred in organising the event.

However, sums raised by other persons will not form part of the proceeds of the event and may be appropriated for private gain. An example would be refreshments provided at the event by an independent third party.

29.35. If someone uses any profits from non-commercial gaming for something other than the specified purpose, then they commit an offence under s.301 of the Act. The maximum penalty, upon conviction for such an offence, is a term of imprisonment not exceeding 51 weeks for England and Wales (six months in Scotland), and/or a level five fine.

29.36. The Act identifies two types of permissible non-commercial gaming:

  • prize gaming (which must comply with the conditions set out in s.299 of the Act)
  • equal chance gaming (which must comply with the conditions set out in s.300 of the Act and the conditions prescribed in regulations).

Non-commercial prize gaming

29.37. Provided that the conditions set out in s.299 are met, poker can be offered as non-commercial prize gaming without the need to have an operating or premises licence, nor a prize gaming permit. Paragraphs 28.7 onwards set out detail on s.299 of the Act.

29.38. Poker as prize gaming occurs if the nature and size of the prize is not determined by the number of people playing or the amount paid for or raised by the gaming. Normally the prizes will be determined by the organiser before play commences.

Non-commercial equal chance gaming

29.39. Provided that the conditions set out under s.300 are met, poker can be offered as non-commercial equal chance gaming without the need to have an operating or premises licence. Paragraphs 28.9 onwards set out detail on s.300 of the Act.

Non-commercial casino night or poker night

29.40. A non-commercial casino night or poker night is an event where participants stake money on casino-style games, such as poker, at a non-commercial event, where none of the money the organisers raise from the event is used for private gain.

29.41. Apart from reasonable costs, proceeds (including any entrance fees, sponsorship, the difference between stakes placed and pay-out made):

  • must not be used for private gain
  • must all be given to a good cause.

Reasonable costs would include costs incurred by providing the prizes. If third parties are selling goods or services at the event, for example if someone is selling refreshments, this does not count as money raised for the charity or good cause and can be retained by that third party.

29.42. A non-commercial casino night or poker night can be run without a licence, or any other form of permission, providing the operation of the gaming falls into one of the three categories discussed below.

29.43. Organisers should note that, under the Act, it is illegal to organise a commercial casino night or poker night outside of a licensed casino. As the law stands, only the holder of a valid non-remote casino operating licence can apply to a licensing authority for a temporary use notice (TUN) in respect of other premises to offer gaming on a commercial basis, and then only in respect of equal chance gaming organised on a tournament basis with a single overall winner (SI No 3157/2007: The Gambling Act 2005 (Temporary Use Notices) Regulations 2007) (opens in new tab).

Casino night or poker night as non-commercial prize gaming

29.44. Casino nights or poker nights can be held as non-commercial prize gaming. The players must be told what good cause will benefit from the profits of the gaming before placing a bet. The prizes must be advertised in advance and must not depend on the number of people playing or the stakes raised. For example, the individual winner or winners could be determined by counting who has the most casino chips after the game or tournament ends. The winners are then awarded the prizes that have been advertised in advance.

Casino night or poker night as non-commercial equal chance gaming

29.45. Casino nights or poker nights can also be run as non-commercial equal chance gaming. In non-commercial equal chance gaming, the charitable funds are usually raised through an entrance fee, participation fee, or through other payments related to the gaming. The maximum amount that a player may be charged is £8 per day (this includes entrance or participation fees, stakes and any other payments in relation to the gaming). Organisers must ensure that the total amount paid out in prizes remains below £600 in total across all players. However, 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 allowed.

Previous section
Poker as exempt gaming in clubs and alcohol licensed premises
Next section
Poker as private gaming
Is this page useful?
Back to top