Deal or No Deal and a comparison of Irish and UK Gambling/Gaming Laws
The Gambling Commission in the UK is meeting senior executives at Channel 4 to discuss its concerns that the well known gameshow Deal or No Deal may constitute gambling. The Commission is due to publish new advice on the implications of the Gambling Act 2005 for broadcasters and producers to draw broadcasters and programme-makers' attention to the law in relation to gambling and help them understand it. It is understood to have particular concerns about the Noel Edmonds gameshow.
The Commission is also understood to be looking at ITV's gameshow, Red or Black, produced by Simon Cowell and presented by Ant and Dec. ITV revealed a number of changes to the format for the second series of Red or Black including stressing that the gameshow requires contestants to "use their judgment and skill" - as opposed to relying on luck - and that they will have "more control over their own destinies".
Scotland, England and Wales
Deal or No Deal could be in breach of UK law because the format, which features 22 different boxes containing various amounts of money from 1p up to £250,000, does not involve an element of skill. Non-skill games played for profit (and which require payment to enter) require a gambling license otherwise they will be classed an illegal lottery. The level of skill required to prevent a game falling into the “non-skill” category must be such that it would either prevent a significant proportion of people: (i) who wish to participate from doing so; or (ii) who participate from receiving a prize. Failure to comply could result in financial penalties and/or criminal prosecutions.
Unfortunately, the majority of the Gambling Act 2005 does not extend to Northern Ireland. Non-skill games are instead governed by the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. Under this legislation, any pay-to-enter promotion is illegal unless it has a genuine free entry route as well. This has implications for organisers who are looking to run a UK wide promotion.
Republic of Ireland
Non-skill games played for profit and which require payment to enter can also fall foul of Irish law. It is likely that the format of Deal or No Deal would be classed as a lottery under the Gaming and Lotteries Act 1956. Operating and advertising a lottery in Ireland without a license can lead to both civil and criminal sanctions. The most common commercial methods for avoiding lottery legislation are to adopt a “no-purchase” route or include a test of skill. The level of skill required under Irish law to ensure a game such as Deal or No Deal falls outside the definition of a lottery is more then “mere colourable” skill i.e. a lower threshold than that applied in Scotland, England and Wales.
Contributed by Brian McElligott of William Fry and Keith Dunn of Tughans, Northern Ireland.