Posted May 13, 2014 by John Baintree in News

Now poker faces the spotlight


It was inevitable really, as the clamour to deal with fixed odds betting terminals (good man, Tom Watson) sees the government ready to make announcements about new controls on FOBTs, the focus moves to another area of gambling concern.

It is indeed a pleasure to see something other than FOBTs coming in for a pasting, but is this shift focus on poker as deserved as the focus on FOBTs. Recently at least 10 illegal poker dens have been closed down by local authorities acting with the help of the Gambling Commission.

Poker is a pastime (I prefer to call it that) that is enjoying a stratospheric increase in its popularity with the man on the street.  However our political masters believe that we need to be sheltered from the dreadful effects of playing this sinful game.

The Gambling Commission have stated “the public need to be protected from the spread of illegal poker dens.” Thank you Gambling Commission, but no thank you. One game, fronted by a private members club on Green Lanes in North London was so popular it regularly featured a pot of £150,000. So, if that many people want to play then let them. Don’t shut down the illegal clubs, you’ll only drive them further underground if that many people want to play.  Let them play in more managed poker clubs where they don’t face the chance of being ripped off or becoming addicted as they do with to online games.

No, look a bit more closely at the police case and the charges brought and you see the real issue behind the clampdown on illegal poker dens is not poker itself. In our never ending war on drugs,  our government is now turning to every opportunity possible to make money laundering more difficult.

Ahmet Melin, 33 from Cheshunt in Hertfordshire has been found guilty of five charges of money laundering and is currently waiting sentencing. Unfortunately, under the current law, poker can only be played for high stakes in a casino or in a member’s only club where they have a gaming license. A license will currently only be granted if poker is a secondary activity at the club.  I sense a need for a change in the law.