Poker player loses £7.7m Supreme Court battle in win for casino industry

Alys Key
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The practice of "edge-sorting" was deemed to be cheating (Source: Getty)

Casino operators are breathing a sigh of relief today after a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court was made on the so-called "cheating" rule.

The Supreme Court refused appeals by professional gambler Phil Ivey, who said he was owed more than £7m by London casino Crockfords.

Ivey admitted to using a technique known as "edge-sorting" in a game of baccarat, arguing that this was a legitimate tactic. Genting Casinos, the owner of Crockfords, opposed the claim.

In the first ruling on section 42 of the Gambling Act since it was enforced, the court decided that dishonesty was not an integral part of cheating, and that Ivey was not entitled to the money.

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“This is a significant moment for the gambling industry," commented Audrey Ferrie, legal director at Pinsent Masons. "Today’s judgment has shown that there is no such thing as ‘honest cheating’. From now on professional gamblers will need to be mindful of whether the skill and knowledge they use to beat the house could be construed as dishonest interference with the process of the game.”

Five justices agreed with the judgment that Ivey had "staged a carefully planned and executed sting" which counted as cheating.

The ruling could even have implications outside the gambling industry.

“This is one of the most significant decisions in criminal law in a generation," said Stephen Parkinson, head of criminal litigation at Kingsley Napley LLP. "The concept of dishonesty is central to a whole range of offences, including fraud."

"For 35 years juries have been told that defendants will only be guilty if the conduct complained of was dishonest by the standards of ordinary reasonable and honest people and also that they must have realised that ordinary honest people would regard their behaviour as dishonest. The Supreme Court has now said that this second limb of the test does not represent the law and that directions based upon it ought no longer to be given by the courts.”

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