Gambler Phil Ivey’s £7.7m lost bet is ‘most significant honesty ruling in a generation’

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Oct 26, 2017
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Phil Ivey claimed won £7.7 million using a technique called “edge sorting”

Times Photographer Richard Pohle

The poker player Phil Ivey has lost a high-stakes gamble in Britain’s highest court over £7.7 million that he claims to have won honestly at a London casino. 

Ivey, 40, an American who is known as the “Tiger Woods of poker”, has been fighting to recover the money won during a game of punto banco, a form of baccarat, at Crockfords Club in Mayfair in 2012.

Genting Casinos, the owner of the club, maintained that a technique Ivey had used called “edge sorting” was not a legitimate strategy. 

Yesterday, five Supreme Court justices unanimously upheld the majority decision of the Court of Appeal, which dismissed Ivey’s case on the basis that dishonesty was not a necessary element of cheating. The landmark ruling means that a player can be guilty of cheating even without knowingly being dishonest or intending to deceive.

Criminal law experts hailed the judgment as one of the most significant in a generation. Stephen Parkinson, a partner at the London law firm Kingsley Napley, said convictions could be easier across a range of criminal offences as a result of the ruling, with juries no longer having to find that offenders had thought they had behaved dishonestly.

“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,” Parkinson said.

However, juries would have to find that “the offender must have realised that ordinary honest people would regard their behaviour as dishonest,” he said. “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.”

Audrey Ferrie, a lawyer at the London firm Pinsent Masons, described the ruling as “a significant moment for the gambling industry. For the first time, the Gambling Act has been enforced for the offence of cheating.” 

Ferrie added that the Supreme Court 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”.

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