U.K. pub owner may be jailed for running poker games

Derek Kelly, owner of the Gutshot pub in London, England, has been charged with violating the 1968 Gambling Act by hosting regular poker tournaments at his pub, which some say is the biggest private poker club in Europe. If charged, Kelly will go to prison, and his 12,000 member club could be shut down.

Authorities conducted a year-long investigation of the Gutshot before charging Kelly for running an illegal gambling establishment.

They say his failure to secure a license for the 20-plus poker games run at the pub each week violated the Gambling Act, which requires establishments to secure a license to run games of chance where a prize of any sort is awarded and a rake is taken.

The Gambling Act was revised earlier this year to reflect changes in modern gaming brought on by the Internet, and is set to take effect beginning in 2007.

Until then, law enforcement agencies across the U.K. will continue to enforce the 1968 version, which names poker, roulette, bingo and blackjack as games of chance.

The central argument of Kelly's defense is that poker is a game of skill, not luck, thus he wasn't required to obtain a license from the government before offering his games to the poker playing public, although he did inform the police and Gambling Commission when he opened the Gutshot in 2004.

He says the only license available (a full casino license) was too general to apply to the Gutshot.

His case is scheduled for trial by a crown court jury in early 2007.

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