Q: A new group of customers have regularly started coming to my pub and playing cards. It's great, as they tend to come on quieter weekday afternoons but I've noticed they play for money and I'm not sure it's legal?
A: Your customers can play games of equal chance for cash in your pub. It is important to know the limits and the conditions for playing. Equal chance games such as poker, cribbage, or whist are permitted in pubs under the Gambling Act 2005 as an exempt gaming. This means you do not have to notify anyone of the game. They can just play.
The regulations place certain limits on stakes and prizes for equal chance gaming. All exempt gaming is expected to be ‘low level’ and the designated person, who is defined as the DPS, is expected to take all reasonable steps to ensure that this remains the case. Gaming in pubs should be ancillary to the main purpose of the premises – the gaming should not be the main reason to go to the premises.
The general rules are that there can be no charge for participating, nor a charge or levy or deduction from the stakes or prizes. Neither can there be linked games across premises. Under 18's cannot participate. The first limit on the exempt gaming is that the maximum amount that can be staked by a player on any game is £5 but interestingly this limit does not apply to dominoes or cribbage.
There are no limits on the amounts that can be won but the games must be for 'low level' prizes. Low level is not defined. There is a code of practice, published by the Gambling Commission and available from them or your local authority, which you should familiarise yourself with.
If your customers are playing poker, then there are some specific rules. Remembering that all stakes must go back to players as prizes, the max a player can stake on any game is £5, the total aggregate maximum stakes per day cannot exceed £100 and the maximum prize must not exceed £100. The Gambling Commission advise in their Code of Practice that, to ensure that the stake and prize limits are not breached, cash games should not be permitted. Where cash games are allowed, the pot should be kept in sight so that it can be viewed by the DPS at all times.
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