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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Gutshot’s Derek Kelly Found Guilty

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The trial lasted as long as the WSOP Main Event that Chris Moneymaker won in 2003, in great part the catalyst that led to the opening of the Gutshot Poker Club in January 2004. In the end, the jury took about as long as the first level lasts in the Main Event to return with a guilty verdict for Derek Kelly, determining that poker is indeed a game of chance throughout England.

The British poker world had looked to the trial of Derek Kelly, Chairman of the Gutshot Private Members Club aka the Gutshot Poker Club. Kelly was charged with two acts of contravening the 1968 Gaming Act by hosting poker tournaments and cash games in the pub turned poker room. His not guilty plea was focused on the claim that poker is a game of skill and therefore not covered by the Act, which focuses on games of chance. The charges related to games from 7 December 2004 to 27 January 2005 at the Clerkenwell location. The Act states that a license is required of any firm conducting games of chance but not games of skill. The Gutshot did not have a license, opening itself up to the potential of a lawsuit.

The Gutshot is best known for Tiffany Williamson, the South Carolina attorney living in London who qualified through a local Gutshot event, turning her five pound entry into a seat in the 2005 WSOP Main Event. She received significant ESPN coverage as she finished 15th for a $400k payday, the highest female finish since Annie Duke's 10th place in 2000 and the highest African American finish since the 10th place finish of Phil Ivey in 2003.

During the six day trial, the judge repeatedly instructed the jurors to focus on whether poker was a game that combined chance and skill. In directing the Jury, the Honorable Judge Wilkinson said, "There is only one issue to decide. Can you be sure that Texas Hold'em is a game of chance and skill combined? Does the game include a significant element of chance?" Later during the trial, he added, "Some of you may have some sympathy for the Gutshot Club members. Some of you may have little interest in the commercial interests of RANK Casinos. However, none of that is relevant when considering whether this game is a game of chance and skill combined." (from Gutshot Poker Club)

Ultimately, Kelly's attorney, Zeeshan Dhar, could not convince the jury that poker should be excluded from the 1968 Gaming Act. Sentencing is scheduled for 16 February, although the judge indicated that the sentence would be limited to a fine and the cessation of poker at the Gutshot. As Kelly left the courthouse, he said, "Me and (Gutshot CEO) Barry Martin will continue to campaign to have poker played among normal people and not casinos." With that, London loses arguably Europe's most charming poker room, and for all poker players another pot is pushed away from each of us.

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