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Back To TopIntroduction

16.1 This part of the guidance describes the categories of gaming machine and the number of such machines that may be permitted in each type of gambling premises as set out in the Act. Licensing authorities should note that the term ‘gaming machine’ now covers all machines on which people can gamble – subject to the exceptions below – and the term has been preserved in the Act, because it is one that is readily understood.

16.2 S.235(1) of the Act sets out the definition of a gaming machine. The definition is wider than those included in previous gambling legislation and covers all types of gambling activity that can take place on a machine, including betting on virtual events. However, the following should be noted:

  • there remains a distinction between skill machines and gaming machines, in that skill machines are unregulated
  • S.235(2) contains important exemptions for equipment that is not to be considered a gaming machine, even when gambling can be performed on it – for example, a home PC is not classed as a gaming machine, even though someone could access remote gambling facilities on a home PC.

16.3 Specific guidance on machines that are exempt is set out later in this part of the guidance, although licensing authorities should take legal advice or contact the Commission directly if they have concerns about the precise legal status of equipment being used on premises.

16.4 The Commission is responsible for licensing manufacturers and suppliers of gaming machines and advises operators to obtain machines from Commission-licensed suppliers. Similarly, permit holders and those applying for permits for clubs, alcohol-licensed premises or family entertainment centres will also be advised through Commission guidance to obtain gaming machines from Commission-licensed suppliers.

16.5 The Commission has set gaming machine technical standards relating to the way in which each category of machine will operate. The Commission has also set out a testing strategy that details the testing arrangements for each category of machine. The Commission has the power to test gaming machines, both before they are supplied and when in operation in premises, to ensure that they are operating as advertised.

16.6 In order for a premises to site gaming machines some form of authorisation is normally required. Typically this is:

  • an operating licence from the Commission and a gambling premises licence from a licensing authority
  • an alcohol premises licence from a licensing authority
  • a gaming machine permit from a licensing authority.

16.7 Depending on the authorisation, there are limits placed on the category of machines that can be sited and, in some cases, on the number of machines that can be made available for use.

16.8 If a licensing authority has concerns relating to the manufacture, supply, installation, maintenance or repair of gaming machines, or the manner in which they are operating, it should contact the Commission.

16.9 S.172 of the Act prescribes the number and category of gaming machines that are permitted in each type of gambling premises licensed by authorities. Neither the Commission nor licensing authorities have the power to set different limits or further expand or restrict the categories of machine that are permitted. The exception to this is alcohol-licensed premises that hold gaming machine permits, where licensing authorities have discretion to specify the number of permitted gaming machines. In addition, limits are set separately in the Act for certain types of permit issued by licensing authorities. Machine limits are summarised at Appendix A of this guidance.

Back To TopCategories of gaming machine 

16.10 Regulations define four categories of gaming machine (as per s.236 of the Act): categories A, B, C and D, with category B divided into a further five sub-categories. The categories and sub-categories have been defined according to the maximum amount that can be paid for playing the machine and the maximum prize it can deliver. Gaming machines which are capable of being used as a gaming machine, whether or not they are currently operating as a gaming machine, are classified as a gaming machine. For example, a machine fitted with a compensator, which allows it to be converted from a skill machine is classified under s.235 of the Act as a gaming machine. Appendix B provides a breakdown of machine categories and entitlements, and Parts 22 and 24 of this guidance provide further details around machines in licensed and unlicensed family entertainment centres (FECs).

Back To TopAge restrictions

16.11 There is a minimum age of 18 for all players for all category A, B and C machines, including category B3A gaming machines offering lottery style games. However there is no minimum age for players of category D machines. The holder of any permit or premises licence has to comply with the codes of practice issued by the Commission on the location of and access to gaming machines by children and young persons, and the separation from category C and B machines where those are also located on the same premises.

Back To TopMaximum number of machines by premises type

16.12 The maximum number of machines permitted, and in the case of casinos the ratios between tables and machines, is set out by premises type in Appendix A, and includes premises with permit entitlements, as well as licensed premises. Further detail about machine entitlement is also provided in this guidance in the parts relating to each of the individual type of premises.

Back To TopMultiple activity premises

16.13 It is not unusual for different licensed activities to take place within an area, such as a track or holiday park, with those licensed activities attracting different machine entitlements. For example, an area could include FECs, adult gaming centres (AGCs) and bingo, whilst also having an alcohol licence.

16.14 It is worth checking, from the plans and a site visit, that the gaming machine entitlements are not being exceeded, and that appropriate signage to prevent unlawful entry is in place where applicable.

16.15 It may be necessary to determine, if an area shown in the plan as part of the ‘club’ premises is separated from another with an alcohol premises licence, that the machines intended to be made available in each part are within the respective, allowable limits. Part 25 of this guidance provides greater detail on the requirements for clubs and Appendix A provides details of the machine entitlements and gaming activities for clubs.

Back To TopThe meaning of ‘available for use’

16.16 S.242 of the Act makes it an offence for a person to make a gaming machine available for use, where they do not hold an operating licence or other permission covering gaming machines and where no other exemption applies.

16.17 The Act does not define what ‘available for use’ means, but the Commission considers that a gaming machine is ‘available for use’ if a person can play it. It follows that more than the permitted number of machines may be physically located on a premises, provided the operator has a system in place that ensures no more than the permitted number are ‘available for use’ at any one time. The operator must control this system. If a customer is able to put a machine into use – for example, by switching it on at the mains or simply removing a notice on the screen – it will be considered as available for use.

16.18 If there is more than one player position – that is two or more people can play a gaming machine simultaneously – then the machine counts as two or more machines (SI 2007/2289: The Gaming Machine (Single Apparatus) Regulations 2007). An appropriate system may be operator control of the power supply for machines of a certain category, which is not accessible to players, so that only one machine can be played.

16.19 If an operator does wish to put more than the permitted number of machines in a public area, the onus will be on the operator to demonstrate that no more than the permitted number of machines are ‘available for use’ at any one time.

16.20 A machine that can operate at more than one category, which is operating at a lower category, does not contribute to the number of machines ‘available for use’ at a higher category until it switches to that category. However, the operator must also have a system in place for these machines which ensures no more than the permitted number are ‘available for use’ at any one time.

16.21 The Commission permits systems in which a number of machines are networked so that the player can select which game and category they play at, but which adhere to any restrictions on the number of machines at a certain category.

16.22 The Commission has published a separate advice note on ‘available use’ (this advice note does not form part of the Guidance to licensing authorities).

Back To TopMachines other than gaming machines in gambling premises

Automated roulette

16.23  There are two types of automated casino equipment that are excluded from the definition of a gaming machine in the Act. The first type is those linked to a live game of chance, for example, roulette. These enable the player to gamble on a live game as it happens, without actually being seated at the table, sometimes referred to as ‘electronic roulette’. These are not regulated as gaming machines but as live gaming and there is no limit on the number of items of such equipment.

16.24 The second type is a machine that plays a live game but is fully automated, that is, it operates without any human intervention. For example, a roulette wheel that is electrically or mechanically operated with an air blower to propel the ball around the wheel. Again, these are not regulated as gaming machines, although casinos are bound by controls on the specification and number of player positions using such equipment. This is only the case where the machine is operated in accordance with a casino operating licence – if operated outside of a casino, the exclusion does not apply and it would be considered a gaming machine. The Act requires that equipment used to play a game of chance, for example, cards, dice and roulette wheels is ‘real’ and not ‘virtual’ if it is not to be classed as a gaming machine. Additionally the game outcome must not be determined by computer as this would normally be considered virtual.

Self-service betting terminals (SSBTs)

16.25 S.235(2)(c) provides that a machine is not a gaming machine by reason only of the fact that it is designed or adapted for use to bet on future real events. Some betting premises may make available for use machines that accept bets on live events, such as a sporting event, as a substitute for placing a bet over the counter. These SSBTs are not gaming machines and therefore neither count towards the maximum permitted number of gaming machines, nor have to comply with any stake or prize limits. Such betting machines merely replicate and automate the process that can be conducted in person, and therefore do not require regulation as gaming machines. S.181 of the Act contains an express power for licensing authorities to restrict the number of SSBTs, their nature and the circumstances in which they are made available, by attaching a licence condition to a betting premises licence or to a casino premises licence (where betting is permitted in the casino). Part 19 of this guidance provides further details.

Skill games

16.26 The Act does not cover machines that give prizes as a result of the application of skill by players. A skill with prizes machine (SWP) is one in which the winning of a prize is determined only by the player’s skill – any element of chance imparted by the action of the machine would cause it to be a gaming machine. An example of a skill game would be trivia game machines, popular in pubs and clubs, which require the player to answer general knowledge questions to win cash prizes. Many FECs have games that give prizes by redemption of tickets accumulated. Providing these machines give prizes according to the skill of the player, for example getting a high score shooting basketball, they will be exempt.

16.27 Genuine SWPs can be sited without permissions. However, the Commission considers that the higher the payout offered by this type of machine, the less likely the machine will be viable as a genuine skill machine simply because of the risk that very skilful players will win the top prize too frequently, making the machine commercially unviable. The Commission has published advice on how to distinguish between these machines and gaming machines in Is a prize machine a gaming machine? and a quick guide on illegal gaming machines (the advice note and quick guide do not form part of the Guidance to licensing authorities).

Lottery ticket vending machines

16.28 Lottery ticket vending machines are generally used to dispense ‘instant win’ lottery tickets, usually scratch cards or ‘pull tab’ tickets in society lotteries and they are mostly prevalent in private society lotteries. The Act defines a private society as ‘any group or society established for a purpose not connected with gambling’. Typically a private society, such as a sports or social club, will promote a lottery and make lottery tickets available to members of the society or those on the premises of the society as part of a ‘private society lottery’. Some societies buy or rent vending machines to dispense their lottery tickets.

16.29 Such machines are often supplied by licensed gaming machine suppliers but the operation and/or design of the machine must not constitute a gaming machine. Advice on the distinction between lottery ticket vending machines and gaming machines is available in the Commission’s Comparing lottery ticket dispensers and category B3A gaming machines’ a quick guide for licensing officers (this quick guide does not form part of the Guidance to licensing authorities).

16.30 Those who supply, manufacture and/or site lottery ticket vending machines are not required to hold an operating or premises licence or any other permission. Where a lottery ticket vending machine is used to dispense society or private society lottery tickets it is the responsibility of the promoter of the lottery to ensure that it is operated lawfully and the required information displayed on the dispensed tickets.

Other exclusions

16.31 S.235(2) of the Act sets out a number of exclusions, covering machines that are not considered gaming machines, even though gambling may take place on them, as follows:

  • a domestic or dual use computer is not a gaming machine just because it can be used to take part in remote gambling. Regulations define a ‘domestic computer’ as one capable of being used for a purpose not related to gambling that is located in a private dwelling and used only on domestic occasions. A ‘dual use computer’ is also defined as having to be capable of being used for a purpose not related to gambling, but in addition must not be knowingly adapted or presented in such a way as to facilitate or draw attention to the possibility of its use for gambling (SI2007/2082: The Gambling Act 2005 (Gaming Machines)(Definitions) Regulations 2007).
  • a telephone or other ‘machine facilitating communication’ that could be used for gambling purposes, for example, a mobile phone via which text message based lotteries can be entered, is not considered to be a gaming machine unless that is its primary purpose. Ordinary mobile phones are therefore exempt from the definition, but telephones designed or adapted for the purpose of enabling gambling would not be.
  • some machines that allow the purchase of lottery tickets are not gaming machines. However, this is intended as an exemption for the sale of tickets in a real lottery with other participants (for example a lottery vending machine), and not a virtual scratchcard lottery conducted only by means of the machine. This means, first, that if the results of the lottery are determined by the machine, the machine is not exempt; and, second, if the machine announces the results of the lottery (determined otherwise than by the machine) by display or communication then the interval between the sale of the ticket and the announcement of the result must comply with the minimum period of time specified by regulations (SI20072495: The Gambling (Lottery Machine Interval) Order 2007). B3A machines are defined as a lottery style gaming machine and permitted under regulations within members’ clubs and miners’ welfare institutes in limited numbers.
  • a machine operated by virtue of a bingo operating licence for the purpose of playing bingo will be exempt provided it complies with any conditions set by the Commission. This covers what are known as mechanised cash bingo and electronic bingo ticket minders.
  • also exempted are machines used for the playing of bingo by way of prize gaming in AGCs and FECs, however, the prize gaming regulations must be complied with.