The Dusk Till Dawn Story

The Early Days

In 2004, old school friends Rob Yong and Nick Whiten had both become frequent and successful players on the international poker circuit but something happened that year which would eventually change the face of poker in Europe forever they turned up a minute late for a tournament!

The Poker Manager was less than understanding and refused them entry. Fuming about it on the way home, Nick said "Why don't we open our own poker room?" For most people this would have been a throwaway conversation which would have ended five minutes after it started, however, Rob took it seriously.

Rob Yong
Looking back, Rob, Managing Director of Dusk Till Dawn (Dusk Till Dawn), says: "I was doing very well at the time. I had plenty of money in the bank from my businesses and it seemed like a fun project. We'd both seen plenty of poker clubs at this point and knew we could do better. So we got a blank piece of paper, hammered out a few ideas and Dusk Till Dawn was born."

It was decided early on that instead of opening a small illegal card room, they would launch a legitimate poker club so the first step was to find suitable premises. A year later, the ideal location was found in their home town of Nottingham. Smilin' Sam's, a disused arcade ticked all the boxes. It had 15,000 sq ft of space, parking for 225 cars, was 10 minutes from the M1 and 15 minutes from East Midlands Airport. The location was also within three miles of several hotels and had D2 planning for a casino.

Getting the License

The next step for the intrepid businessmen was to secure a Certificate of Consent, the first legal stage in the rigorous process ahead. During that time, Rob's business was inspected, high level staff were interviewed and six months worth of financial work was examined. To make matters worse, in mid-2006, the Gambling Commission lost the paperwork for the Dusk Till Dawn application whilst they were moving offices from London to Birmingham.

Nick Whiten

Nick, Operations Director for Dusk Till Dawn, says: "It was very frustrating at the time because we'd been working on the project for two years. Saying that though, I don't begrudge the Gambling Commission at all as they have been very supportive throughout the whole process. We always knew it was going to be a lot of hard work but you never realise just how hard until you get started."

Dusk Till Dawn was finally awarded the Certificate of Consent on 15th February 2007. However this was only the first part of the legal process as they now had to apply for the casino license at the Nottingham Magistrates. Normally this is just a formality, however, shortly after submitting the application to court, three rivals, Gala, Stanley's and London Clubs International (LCI) objected to the club on the grounds of "insufficient demand."

A court date was set for April 28th 2007. When the big day came the Magistrate had no choice but to adjourn the hearing due to the three objectors. The Big Three tried to have the case adjourned until 2008 but due to the arguments made by Dusk Till Dawn lawyer Andrew Woods, the Magistrate ruled that the court hearing would be September 24th 28th 2007, just under six months away. Although such an adjournment was expected, it was still a bitter blow for the Dusk Till Dawn team who had now lost an additional year to bureaucratic wrangling. Simon Trumper, Live Poker Director, says: "It was a tough time. We knew there was going to be an adjournment but six months had always been the worst case scenario."

"During the time leading up to the case, Rob had mostly finished setting up the club and hired a number of senior staff in preparation for its opening. The adjournment meant he was paying their wages, construction costs and rent on the building, about £100,000 a month! On top of that there was now the pressure that with three big corporations opposing the plans, all the hard work which had gone into the club could have come to nothing."

Despite this though, the Dusk Till Dawn team buckled down and kept working towards the opening, finishing the club and putting systems in place for when it was completed. As the court case approached, rumours started circulating amongst the poker community that the casinos were fighting for another adjournment and had over 'one hundred ways' to stop us getting our casino licence

The Court Case

Day 1 - Dusk Till Dawn

Finally the big day came and Dusk Till Dawn were off to a promising start when LCI pulled out at the last minute, leaving only two objectors. As defendants, Dusk Till Dawn were given the first day to submit their case. The poker club called three witnesses; the first was Mike Wiseman, a former police officer and ex-employee of the Gambling Commission, who now works for Dusk Till Dawn as a Compliance Manager. He testified that Dusk Till Dawn had worked closely with the Gambling Commission and he had been appointed to ensure that the club complied not only with the Commission but in all standards and licensing areas.

The next person to the stand was Simon Trumper, the Live Poker Director. He dealt with the issue of demand and cited the growth of not just internet poker but the explosive growth of attendance at live tournaments. Simon also pointed to several letters from organisations who'd shown an interest in holding a tournament at the club such as the EPT and the WPT. Additionally he also showed an enourmous bundle of letters/emails of support from the poker community.

The final witness to take the stand that day was Rob. He talked in impassioned terms of why he wanted to open a club and of the large amount of support he had received from the poker community. Whilst both barristers for the opposition appeared to have held back on their first two witnesses, they now gave it their all as they questioned several elements of the business. Rob spoke from the heart as always and made it through mostly unscathed, ending day 1 of the case.

Day 2 - The Casinos

On day 2 it was now the casinos turn to have their day in court. Chris Clark, Operations Director for Gala and Nick Malone, Director of New Business Operations for Stanley's, were both called to the stands respectively. The casino lawyers certainly earned their pay that morning as they went to work to try and discredit Dusk Till Dawn's argument. They threw doubt on Dusk Till Dawn's financial projections and the amount of regular members they could attract. They also argued that with the use of the new Temporary Use Notice Act, it would soon make it possible for casinos to rent out hotels to hold such events. The final argument put forward was that, under the 2005 Gambling Act, if Dusk Till Dawn was given a casino licence, the licence could be later sold on and used to open a casino with table games in that area.

The mood was very nervous on the Dusk Till Dawn side of the room and the casinos looked satisfied with a good day's work. The Magistrates then decided that they would like to see the Dusk Till Dawn club and the most recently opened LCI card room to compare. So after lunch the three Magistrates were taken on a tour of Dusk Till Dawn by Simon Trumper. Simon summarises simply: "They were gob smacked at the scale of it!"

Things took a sharp downward swing for the casinos when the Magistrates visited the LCI card room as it turned out not to be a card room. With a small stage, a projection screen and even a DJ booth, it was obvious that this space was primary meant to be used as a function room." All parties returned and the Magistrates ended the proceedings for that day.

Day 3 - The Verdict

On the final day of the case closing statements were made by all three barristers with each one passionately putting forward their arguments either for or against Dusk Till Dawn. After just two hours, all arguments were heard and the Magistrates retired to make their historic decision.

Time passed slowly. For many people at Dusk Till Dawn, failure to obtain the license would result in them losing their jobs. At 4pm everybody was called in to the court room to hear the verdict. The Chairman of the Betting and Gaming Committee, stated: "I can safely say that if you had come to us with the intention of obtaining a full gaming license we would have denied it. CourtWe would have been finished by lunch. However, as you wish to open a poker-only club, we feel there is demand for the facilities you offer. As such, we will issue you a license with the condition that only poker is played there and no slot machines will be allowed."

Cheering isn't allowed in the court rooms but there was plenty of jubilation outside as the Dusk Till Dawn team celebrated. That wasn't the only historic moment though as this was the last case heard under the 1968 Gaming Act which has now been superseded by the 2005 Act. The Dusk Till Dawn license on issue was converted to a 2005 Act license, meaning that despite the Magistrates ruling, the club could choose to host slot machines or any table game for that matter. However, Rob as a gesture of good faith, decided to abide by the plan and keep the club predominantly poker only.

And so the story ends, or maybe we should say begins!

The battle fought by the DTD crew was long and hard but one thing is certain....

...the landscape of poker in Europe is about to change forever with the opening of Dusk Till Dawn!