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Playing games for cash

Gaming should be ancillary to the pub's main purpose

Q:  I have recently taken over a rural pub and there are a group of Royal Air Force veterans who like to visit a few times a month.  Sometimes they are a large group and like to play dominos, other times if there are just a few of them they sometimes play cribbage.  I have noticed that they like to play for small sums of cash.  I have let them play, they are good repeat business and they tend to come at quiet times during weekday afternoons, but I need to be sure that the gaming taking place is legal.  Can I allow them to continue to play dominos and cribbage for cash? 

A:  The simple answer is yes, you can allow your customers to play either dominos or cribbage for cash.  Customers can in fact play any equal chance gaming for money in your pub.  Equal chance gaming is gaming where there is no ‘banker’, so the players are not playing or staking against the bank, and where the chances are equally favourable to all participants.

You can allow both games to continue, without having to apply for a permission/licence, as the  games are permitted under the Gambling Act as what is called ‘exempt gaming’.  This means you do not have to notify any authority, or the police. 

Cribbage and dominos are unusual examples of exempt gaming, as there is no statutory limit on the amount that can be staked.  Other types of gaming, for instance poker, bingo, whist, bridge etc. have a £5 limit on the amount a person can stake per game.

As there is no limit on stakes, there is therefore no limit on the potential prizes.  However, although there is no statutory limit on the stakes or the prizes, the Gambling Commission  publish a Code of Practice which applies to equal chance gaming in premises with an alcohol licence. This would include dominos and cribbage in pubs, and it states that all gambling is expected to be “low level” and the Designated Premises Supervisor is expected to take all reasonable steps to ensure that this remains the case. 

There is no assistance as to what this means, but the £5 limit on other games is a possible guide.  Gaming in pubs should be ancillary to the main purpose of the premises, and should not be the main reason to go to the premises.  

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