No Deal As Regulator Targets TV shows

Deal Or No Deal is one of the most popular shows on British televisions. Yet, the future of this show and many others is in doubt after an investigation by the UK Gambling Regulator.

While most forms of Gambling in the United Kingdom are perfectly legal, what constitutes gambling is often a grey area. Games of skill can be played for money without the need of a gambling license under UK law. However, games of luck require the operator to be fully licensed with the UK regulator ‘The Gambling Commission’.

These laws can cause confusion, for instance; poker which is considered a game of skill and luck can be played for money in members clubs or commercial clubs without the need for a gambling license, so long as the combined stakes per day do not exceed £250.

Fruit machine games can be played legally by children as long as the jackpots do not exceed £5. UK fruit machines have always contained an element of skill, such as ‘holds' or ‘nudges' to comply with the law. American style slot machines would be illegal in the UK at any location other than a fully licensed casino.

As you can see from the examples above the laws governing gambling in the UK are less than clear. So it was not unexpected when a number of popular TV shows which seem to blur the line between entertainment and gambling peaked the interest of the regulator.

Big money game shows are not a new phenomenon, ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ is probably the most well known example of this genre, crucially ‘Millionaire’ contains a large element of skill i.e. answering increasingly difficult questions, where as TV shows like ‘Deal Or No Deal’ and more recently iTV's ‘Red Or Black’ appear completely random in nature – in other words, games of luck played for money.

Producers of ‘Deal Or No Deal’ and ‘Red Or Black’ will likely argue that the contestants on these shows are not gambling because they’re not risking their own money. It's a fair point but the gambling commission may take another view. If the shows are deemed to constitute gambling then the producers will have little choice other than to amend the format of these games to include an element of skill.

Its unknown if the popularity of these shows would be negatively effected by a change in format. You can bet that Channel 4 will be banking on the gambling commission doing a deal with them before the next series of ‘Deal Or No Deal’ is due to be aired.