AMBITIOUS plans for a poker league in Trowbridge have been dealt a losing hand by a law banning "games of chance" in pubs and clubs.

Trowbridge and District Poker League organiser Walt Sampson had planned to hold the first meet later this month until he was informed that running the league would breach the 1968 Gaming Act.

Sampson, who currently sponsors the Trowbridge Darts League, saw the current poker phenomenon as the ideal solution to bridge the 10-week summer gap during the darts season.

The proposed league was due to run from the end of May until mid-August with five-man teams competing at hands of Texas Hold'Em, the most popular form of the game.

Sampson said: "My landlord handed me an article called Pub poker is a game of chance.' Even though no money would change hands, the fact that we charge a match fee means it would not be allowed.

"In hindsight I probably should have looked further into it. Poker was just supposed to be something fun to do instead of darts during the summer. I was never in it to start a business or to make any money."

Section six of the 1968 Act specifically controls gaming on licensed premises. Cribbage and dominoes are permitted, but no other gaming may take place without the approval of the licensing authority.

Sampson described the ruling as a major blow to his plans after spending more than 30 hours preparing registration documents for the league.

He said: "When I first advertised the league there was a positive response from quite a few pubs. I bought a case of 1,000 chips for £75, which was going to be used at the end of season tournament at the Wesley Road Club.

"It's disappointing but there's nothing I can do about it. At least if the law changes I know there's enough people interested to run the league."

A spokesman for the Gambling Commission, the government body which regulates gambling in the public interest, said: "Anyone who organises poker tournaments with a public element risks breaching the legislation in the 1968 Gaming Act.

"Organisers of poker tournaments are advised to seek legal advice before undertaking such ventures outside casino premises.

"Any individual who engages in a poker tournament held in non-casino premises will not enjoy any regulatory protection," the spokesman said.