Casino cheating does not require dishonesty

Posted: 7th November 2016

GamblingIn a decision of crucial importance to anyone involved in the gaming industry, the Court of Appeal has ruled that a professional card player, Phil Ivey, who won £7.7 million at the baccarat table was cheating – despite the fact that he was not dishonest.

The 39-year-old player and an associate achieved the winnings by engaging in ‘edge sorting’, a technique which involves the exploitation of design irregularities on the backs of playing cards. He launched proceedings against Genting Casinos UK after it refused to pay him his winnings on the basis that he was a cheat.

There was no dispute that it was an implied term of the contract between Mr Ivey and the casino that he would not cheat. However, he argued that, as a highly skilled player, he was engaged in a game of cat and mouse with the casino and insisted he plated an 'honest game'. Edge sorting should have been well known to the casino and it bore responsibility for taking steps to protect itself against it. His arguments, however, failed to persuade a judge, who found that he had cheated. Although he had not been subjectively dishonest, the casino was unaware of edge sorting and his use of the technique had unfairly altered the odds in his favour.

In rejecting his challenge to that ruling, the Court found by a majority that the criminal offence of cheating, contained within Section 42 of the Gambling Act 2005, does not require proof of subjective dishonesty or an intention to deceive. The casino was not aware that the player’s use of edge sorting was having a substantial effect on the odds in the game. The player had interfered with the process of the game and the fact that he did not view himself as cheating was not determinative.