You hear a great deal of rumour and out-of-date information about the legality of playing cards in pubs. If I play cribbage or dominoes with my son, who's under 18, in a pub but with no money or anything else being involved, just to pass the time of day, are there any restrictions on that?

I am confused by much of the discussion and legislation which, in the excerpt form typically used in discussions and blogs, seems always to assume a wager part.

I do know that cribbage and dominoes are explicitly mentioned in some pieces of legislation so have good reason to think that the precedent of Magic: The Gathering meetups, iPhone games, etc, are probably not sufficient.

  • People inclined to say "well why wouldn't it be legal?" have probably had limited exposure to UK licencing law!
    – Dannie
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 16:35
  • 1
    I'm not from the UK, but people inclined to say well why wouldn't be legal are right in this case tbh.
    – Putvi
    Commented Nov 6, 2019 at 18:29
  • 2
    When I was a kid there were notices above the door for places where you are licensed to sing or dance. A few years ago there was regular discussion about the laws around who could and couldn't sing without a licence in a pub (how many singers, instruments, etc). Many of our licencing laws are (or at least were) incredibly crazy, patchily enforced, and completely arbitrarily leniently and punitively pursued. Reason and rationality aren't a good guide in this area.
    – Dannie
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 11:40

1 Answer 1


Explanatory note #176 on the Gambling Act 2005 specifies:

There are some exceptions to the general prohibition on gambling by children and young people. Children and young persons may participate in all forms of private or non-commercial gaming and betting. Young persons may participate in lotteries and pool betting on association football. Children and young persons may use the category of gaming machine with the lowest stakes and prizes (Category D). They may also take part in equal chance prize gaming at certain premises, as provided under Part 13 of the Act.

Cribbage and Dominoes are both exempt forms of "Equal Chance Gambling" which can be played on alcohol licensed premises (e.g. pubs).

As @richardb points out, while young people (i.e. your son) are normally allowed to take part in Equal Chance Gambling there are explicitly excluded from doing so on alcohol-licensed premises using the "Exempt gaming" provisions as outlined in Sec.280

Children and young people must be excluded from the gaming.

So you can't play for money (assuming the absence of a suitable Family Entertainment Centre license or similar), however playing not-for-stakes doesn't fit the definition of "Gambling" in terms of the act.

Gambling is defined as either "Gaming", "Betting" or a "Lottery"

It's not "gaming" without a prize:

In this Act “gaming” means playing a game of chance for a prize.

It's not "betting" without a prize:

For the purposes of section 9(1) a person makes a bet (despite the fact that he does not deposit a stake in the normal way of betting) if—

(a)he participates in an arrangement in the course of which participants are required to guess any of the matters specified in section 9(1)(a) to (c),

(b)he is required to pay to participate, and

(c)if his guess is accurate, or more accurate than other guesses, he is to—

(i)win a prize, or

(ii)enter a class among whom one or more prizes are to be allocated (whether or not wholly by chance).

And it's not a Lottery either (I won't quote the whole section here as it's a bit wordy but you can check for yourself here)

So as long as there is literally no stakes or prize (whether money or otherwise) you can play with a young person in a pub.

  • No, you can't play for money. See 279 (6).
    – richardb
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 11:59
  • Having read both the answer and the comment, and the explanatory note from the answer and the section of the act mentioned in the comment, I am now more confused than ever!
    – Dannie
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 12:37
  • @Dannie.. working on an edit to clarify things. Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 12:38
  • Thank you for the work on this answer @motosubatsu
    – Dannie
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 12:38

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