By Paul Willcock, President and Chief Operating Officer of Genting UK
On Wednesday 25th October 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Crockfords in the case of Ivey versus Genting UK, bringing to an end our long running dispute with professional poker player, Phil Ivey.
In this latest court judgement – from the highest court in the land – Crockfords and Genting have once again been found to have acted correctly and honestly at all times, with five Supreme Court judges unanimously agreeing that we were absolutely right when we made the decision not to pay Mr Ivey the ‘winnings’ he claimed were rightfully his after a visit to Crockfords some five years ago.
The details of this case have been well documented, but it was back in August 2012 when Mr Ivey ‘won’ £7.8 million playing Baccarat in Crockfords across two consecutive nights.
Suspecting foul play, the Crockfords team returned Mr Ivey’s stake to him, but refused to pay the winnings. Mr Ivey subsequently took Genting UK to court in an attempt to claim the disputed amount, and so began the lengthy legal process.
There has never been a dispute between the parties as to what Mr Ivey did when he played the game on the nights in question. From the very first court hearing Ivey made it clear that he had employed a technique known as ‘edge sorting’ to help him identify the cards that were being dealt, which was made possible by an asymmetry on the design of the back of the cards. Ivey maintained that this was a legitimate gambling technique, whereas we believed strongly it amounted to cheating.
As part of his meticulously planned scam, Ivey employed the services of a companion who helped him to identify the discrepancies on the cards. Ivey then feigned susceptibility to various superstitions to persuade the dealer to turn the cards in certain ways, which in turn enabled him to identify the cards as they came out the dealing shoe. Thus, he was instructing the dealer, unwittingly and unknowingly, to sort the cards to his advantage.
At the High Court back in 2014, Mr Justice Mitting found in Genting’s favour, a decision which was later upheld by the Court of Appeal. However earlier this year Mr Ivey was given permission to take his appeal a stage further, to the Supreme Court, which is where this case finally came to its conclusion.
In their judgement, the five Supreme Court judges described the High Court judge’s conclusion that Mr Ivey had cheated as “unassailable”. They added that; “What Mr Ivey did was to stage a carefully planned and executed sting” and “took positive steps to fix the deck.” They concluded that that conduct, in a game which depends on random delivery of unknown cards, was “inevitably cheating.”
The Supreme Court judgement, and indeed the judgements of the other courts that have heard this case, made no criticism whatsoever of Genting’s conduct in relation to this matter, whereas in relation to Mr Ivey they found that he was clearly cheating and also dishonest.
This judgment also provides a complete answer to Mr Ivey’s oft cited rhetorical question “how can you have an honest cheat?”, which is in relation to the High Court judge’s assertion that Ivey believed his actions to be honest. We have always maintained that what Mr Ivey thought about what he did is irrelevant to the question of whether he cheated. We are pleased that the Supreme Court wholeheartedly agreed with that view and, furthermore, found that Mr Ivey's conduct was in fact dishonest.
This has been a landmark case in how the courts approach cheating in the modern day and will have wide ramifications for the gaming industry. The decision is also ground breaking for the legal profession in that the Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the longstanding criminal “Ghosh” test for dishonesty and held that the test should be the same whether it arises in a civil action or a criminal prosecution.
Most importantly to me though is that, throughout this whole process, Crockfords’ reputation for discretion, integrity and fairness has remained absolutely intact. We now look forward to being able to focus 100 per cent of our efforts on ensuring all of our customers continue to receive the world class service they have become accustomed to… and to spending a little less time in court.