Jail for ex-McCain worker Ashley Locker, of Scarborough, who went from poker king to gambling addict and cocaine dealer
A high-stakes poker player from Scarborough who lived the dream but then ran up gambling debts has been jailed for dealing cocaine.
Just three years ago, Ashley Locker was basking in the glow of a $49,000 windfall after starring in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
But when his fortunes dipped on the card table, the 29-year-old professional poker player turned to the drug trade to make up for his losses as his gambling addiction spiralled out of control, York Crown Court heard.
Locker, once a high-roller on the poker scene, was driving an Audi Q7 when he was stopped by police in November 2019 after automatic-number-plate recognition technology linked the vehicle to a potential drug network, said prosecutor Matthew Collins.
In fact, Locker had embarked on his own cocaine-dealing enterprise which he had hoped would make up for his reversal of fortunes on the gambling scene.
The former McCain Foods factory worker – who had given up his job after his £37,000 jackpot at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 2018 – handed over £1,500 to police during the routine stop, telling officers he was a professional poker player and was on his way to a card game, and that the money was to be used for his stakes.
But police found another £923 in the car – a total of £2,423 – as well as six snap bags full of cocaine which Mr Collins said were “dealer amounts”.
During a subsequent search of Locker’s home, police found a further 55g of cocaine in a plastic tub. The “wholesale” value was worth up to £2,212, but the “street value” was anywhere between £6,120 and £7,650, said Mr Collins.
Police found more dealer bags inside the property, along with a “tick list detailing drug transactions”.
Mr Collins said the “street-dealing (enterprise)” appeared to be a one-man operation generating “commercial-level profit”.
Locker’s arrest constituted a complete reversal of fortunes for a man who curtailed his career at the McCain factory at Eastfield as he rode the crest of a wave in the card stakes, only to turn to the drug trade.
Locker was charged with possessing cocaine with intent to supply and admitted the offence. He appeared for sentence on Thursday.
Anna Bond, for Locker, said her client was a changed man who had taken steps since his arrest to beat his gambling addiction.
She said he had gone from being a “normal family man” to one addicted to gaming. He had started playing tournament poker at the age of 18 and worked at McCain until he was 26 years old.
In 2017, Locker had to take three months off work for a knee-ligament operation which led to him focusing more on his poker than his day job.
The former Scalby School pupil had also picked up £20,000 winnings in Sheffield and Nottingham in 2014. The more he played, the more successful he became, and he soon started earning more playing cards than he did working at the food factory.
“It was wonderful, it was financially lucrative; it was glamorous, and it was fun, but, as with every addiction, it creeps up on you,” said Ms Bond.
“With every low he then desperately sought a high. He had to beg and borrow to fund his addiction.”
The “big win” in Vegas – where he finished with a high ranking out of over 7,000 players from 88 different countries – was one of his “highs”, but this was followed by “his lows”.
“It was an addiction that crept up very slowly and before he knew it … he (started dealing drugs) and probably made the worst mistake of his life,” added Ms Bond.
Since his arrest, Locker had sought help from Gamblers Anonymous and found new employment.
He had been forced to leave the family home and move back in with his parents, but his partner and employer “still believed in him”.
But Judge Sean Morris, the Recorder of York, told Locker he had become a dealer “out of choice”.
“You had a good lifestyle, you had a nice career and you got – inevitably, as gamblers do – into debt, and you made a lifestyle choice to become a dealer in Class A drugs (where) big money can be made,” added Mr Morris.
“You chose to get rich quick. Making money out of drugs (is) evil.”
Jailing Locker for two years and two months, the judge told him the sentence was meant to deter others who might be tempted to make a similar “business decision” to pay for their addictions.
Locker will serve half of the 26-month sentence behind bars before being released on prison licence.
For help with a gambling addiction or problem, visit Gamblers Anonymous HERE. Meetings in Scarborough take place every Tuesday at the Friends Meeting House, Quaker Close; email [email protected] or phone 07771 427429.