Blackpool Hoopla game exposed
A statistician has provided evidence that helped to convict a Blackpool stallholder of running a game of hoopla that was almost impossible to win, report the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the BBC (among others).
Dr David Lucy of Lancaster University, an expert in the application of statistical methods to the evaluation of forensic evidence, was called in by police investigating the activities of Philip Williams, a Blackpool businessman who ran the stall.
The law says that people should have “a reasonable chance” of winning in games of skill such as hoopla, where rings have to be thrown so that they fall over blocks. But Dr Lucy, provided with the apparatus of the stall after police had seized it in September 2008, found that it would have to be played more than 2,500 times to stand a reasonable chance of success.
The upper surfaces of the blocks were chamfered away from the thrower, he found. “The geometry was such that a player would need to throw the hoop at such a high trajectory to be able to win at all and obviously this went above any reasonable skill level. We made nearly 600 throws without any joy which led to me calculating on the geometry that one would have to try 2,600 times to stand a reasonable chance of being successful."
The findings enabled trading standards officers to challenge the claim that it was a game of skill, which meant that Williams should have had a gambling license to operate it. Yesterday he was found guilty of unlawfully allowing premises on the Promenade to be used for gambling and permitting a child to gamble. He was jailed for 14 weeks, suspended for a year, and ordered to complete 270 hours of community service and pay £2,000 in court costs.
Some players had lost hundreds of pounds playing the game, urged on by the stallholders. The court heard one (unnamed) doctor lost £1,200 and two girls, aged 14 and 15, £70.