Professional gambling not self-employment

Posted: 20th March 2018

Poker cardsProfessional gambling, no matter how sophisticated, organised or successful, is not by itself an activity amounting to self-employment. The Court of Appeal so ruled in a guideline decision in the context of a child maintenance case.

The matter concerned a father who had, over a 25-year period, made his entire, not inconsiderable, income from gambling. He played cards professionally and bet on boxing and horses with consistent success. The Child Support Agency (CSA) took the view that his winnings were earnings from gainful employment and that they should thus be taken into account when assessing the amount of maintenance that he was required to pay the mother of his child. His challenge to that decision was rejected by both the First-tier and Upper Tribunals.

In allowing his appeal, however, the Court noted that the man carried out no other income-generating activity, linked to his gambling, that could itself be characterised as a trade or other form of self-employment. On the basis of established authority, mere gambling, without more, could never amount to self-employment.

He had not been a self-employed earner at any relevant time and his winnings were thus not earnings from gainful employment, within the meaning of the Child Support (Maintenance and Special Cases) Regulations 1992. The CSA had wrongly taken his winnings into account and the matter was remitted to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for the amount of maintenance payable to be reassessed in the light of the Court’s decision.