UK

Poker Player Will Not Have To Pay Child Support From Winnings After Court Fight

28/04/2014 12:25 BST | Updated 28/04/2014 12:59 BST

A professional poker player who "declines to support his children" has won a legal fight after arguing he should not have to pay maintenance because his winnings are not "earnings from gainful employment".

Court of Appeal judges have ruled in Tony Hakki's favour after the children's mother - Devrise Blair - asked the Child Support Agency to order him to pay towards his children.

Ms Blair argued that gambling was Mr Hakki's "trade or profession" and compared him to a professional sportsman.

poker hand

The court ruled the winnings were not 'earnings from gainful employment'

But the Court of Appeal concluded that Mr Hakki's poker playing was not sufficiently organised for it to amount to a trade, business or profession within the regulations governing the payment of child support.

Three appeal judges have issued a written ruling after analysing the case at a hearing in London in March.

Judges said Mr Hakki had played poker for many years and was known in the "poker community" as "Tony the Hitman Hakki". They said he had been a financial broker who had been made redundant in 1998 when in his mid-40s.

Their ruling did not say how many children Mr Hakki had with Ms Blair - and did not give any details of the relationship.

"(Mr Hakki) is a professional poker player in the sense that he supports himself from his winnings at poker. He declines to support his children and the mother has made an application to the Child Support Agency for an order that he pay child support maintenance," said one appeal judge, Lord Justice Longmore, in the ruling.

"He opposes the application on the ground that his poker winnings do not constitute 'earnings' from gainful employment.

"This depends on the true construction of the Child Support (Maintenance Assessment and Special Cases) Regulations."

He added: " On the facts found I do not consider that it can be said that Mr Hakki had a sufficient organisation in his poker playing to make it amount to a trade (or a business) let alone a profession or a vocation."

Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Pitchford agreed.

The Appeal Court ruling was the latest stage of a legal dispute stretching back more than four years.

Mr Hakki asked appeal judges to analyse the case after a tribunal judge decided that he could be said to be "gainfully employed" as a "self-employed earner".