Poker verdict heralds action against clubs

Jeevan Vasagar – Source:,,1991968,00.html

The chairman of Europe’s biggest poker club was convicted yesterday of contravening the Gaming Act in a verdict that heralds a clampdown on unlicensed poker clubs in the UK.

Derek Kelly, 46, will have to pay legal fees of more than £23,000 and faces the closure of his club, the Gutshot, in Clerkenwell, central London. However, a judge said he would not be sent to prison.

Kelly had charged an entrance fee of £22 to more than 12,000 punters who came to play the card game. He also took a levy from winnings.

Under the law, clubs cannot rake off a percentage from players’ stakes or winning pots on games of chance. The only way to host commercial poker games legally is to hold a casino licence, though this is prohibitively expensive for small poker clubs.

Kelly said poker was a game of skill, like bridge, but the prosecution insisted there was an element of chance as the deck was shuffled before play began.

Outside Snaresbrook crown court, east London, Kelly said: “Me and Barry Martin [the club’s chief executive] will continue to campaign to have poker played among normal people and not casinos.”

Kelly, of Greystones, County Wicklow, in the Irish Republic, was convicted of illegally charging a levy on the winnings and illegally charging a participation fee, in breach of the 1968 Gaming Act.

A Gambling Commission spokesman said: “Poker is a very popular game, but without proper supervision it can rapidly escalate into a high-risk, volatile activity, as well as create opportunities for criminal exploitation and cheating.”

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