6.1 S.349 of the Act requires all licensing authorities to prepare and publish a statement of licensing principles that they propose to apply in exercising their functions under the Act, commonly known as a policy statement. The policy statement forms the licensing authority’s mandate for managing local gambling provision and sets out how the licensing authority views the local risk environment and therefore its expectations in relation to operators with premises in the locality.
6.2 The policy statement acts as the primary vehicle for setting out the licensing authority’s approach to regulation having taken into account local circumstances. For example, a licensing authority might identify the safeguarding of children as a key priority, in which case its statement would set out those policies, procedures and control measures it would expect licensees to follow to mitigate any risks relating to underage gambling.
6.3 Policy statements are likely to reflect differences in approach between different licensing authorities. The statement made by a seaside town licensing authority, which may see gambling businesses as an important part of its plans for growth and regeneration based on regular influx of visitors, may well be significantly different from that of an inner city authority, which may be more concerned with impact on the vulnerable. In this respect, licensing authorities may find it helpful to make an assessment of the pattern of gambling and associated risks to the licensing objectives in their own areas.
6.4 The Commission encourages licensing authorities to have a policy statement that is genuinely reflective of local issues, local data, local risk and the expectations that a licensing authority has of operators who either currently offer gambling facilities or wish to do so in the future. The existence of a clear and robust policy statement provides greater scope for licensing authorities to work in partnership with operators, other local businesses, communities, and responsible authorities to identify and to proactively mitigate local risks to the licensing objectives.
6.5 The policy statement can be reviewed and revised by the licensing authority at any time, but must be produced following consultation with those bodies and persons set out in s.349(3) of the Act. Regulations made by the Secretary of State, or Scottish Ministers in Scotland, prescribe the form of statements, and the procedure to be followed in relation to them and their publication, as detailed in paragraph 6.11 onwards.
6.6 Licensing authorities should ensure that the policy statement balances the need for a degree of certainty on the part of gambling businesses with the need to remain responsive to emerging risks. It should be evidence led, based on the principles outlined below and reviewed at least every three years.
6.7 Licensing authorities have a duty to pursue the licensing objectives and all policy statements should begin by stating the three licensing objectives (s.1 of the Act), which the policy will promote:
6.8 The statement should also state that the licensing authority shall aim to permit the use of premises for gambling as set out in s.153 of the Act.
6.9 It is expected that licensing authorities will regulate gambling in the public interest which will be reflected in the policy statement.
6.10 While the policy statement may set out a general approach to the exercise of functions under the Act, it should not override the right of any person to make an application and to have that application considered on its merits. The exception to this is where the licensing authority has passed a ‘no casino’ resolution under s.166(1) of the Act, detailed in Part 17 of this guidance. Additionally, the policy statement must not undermine the right of any person to make representations on an application or to seek a review of a licence where provision has been made for them to do so.
6.11 The Gambling Act 2005 (Licensing Authority Policy Statement) (England and Wales) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/636) and the Gambling Act 2005 (Licensing Authority Policy Statement) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (SSI 2006/156), set out requirements as to the form and publication of licensing authority policy statements of policy and subsequent revisions of statements. In addition to those requirements, this guidance sets out certain information that the Commission considers should be included in all licensing authority statements of policy.
6.12 The regulations provide that the form of the statement can be determined by the licensing authority itself, subject to the requirement that the policy statement must contain an introductory section summarising the matters contained within the statement. The introductory section must include:
6.13 The policy statement should set out the activities that the licensing authority is able to license.
6.14 The regulations also require the policy statement to set out specific matters in separate sections relating to the principles to be applied by the licensing authority in exercising:
Each of these is set out in further detail below.
6.15 Under s.349 of the Act, the policy statement must set out the principles that the licensing authority proposes to apply in exercising their functions. One of those functions is to determine who will be competent to advise them about the protection of children from harm and so the policy statement must contain a section that sets out the principles the licensing authority will apply in designating a competent body.
6.16 In many licensing authority areas, the recognised competent body will be the local Safeguarding Children Board in England and Wales, or the Child Protection Committee in Scotland. However, the licensing authority has discretion to determine the most appropriate competent body to advise it, and must consider which body best fulfils this function. The policy statement should set out this consideration, or the criteria the authority intends to use, in order to designate that body and confirm that designation in writing.
6.17 A designated body is a responsible authority under s.157(h) of the Act. Licensing authorities should engage fully with the designated body and provide sufficient opportunity for them to be consulted on the development of the policy statement, as they can offer valuable insight into the impact of gambling on children in the local area. Licensing authorities might also opt to consult such groups as part of its own local area profile, discussed at paragraph 6.47 onwards.
6.18 Licensing authority policy statements must contain a section that sets out the principles to be applied by the licensing authority to determine whether a person is an interested party in relation to a premises licence, or in relation to an application for or in respect of a premises licence.
S.158 of the Act defines interested parties as persons who, in the opinion of the licensing authority:
6.20 It is a matter for the licensing authority to decide whether a person is an interested party with regard to particular premises and that should be decided on a case by case basis. However, the licensing authority should set out the principles it will apply in determining whether a person is an interested party in its policy statement, and that may include relevant factors it will take into account. For example, this could be the size of the premises and the nature of the activities taking place as larger premises may be considered to affect people over a broader geographical area compared with smaller premises offering similar facilities.
6.21 Licensing authority policy statements should include guidance as to whom they consider comes within the category of those who living sufficiently close to premises to be affected by it or have business interests, that may be affected by it. For example, this could include trade associations, trade unions, residents’ and tenants’ associations. It is expected that the types of organisations that may be considered to have business interests will be interpreted broadly to include, for example, partnerships, charities, faith groups and medical practices.
6.22 Licensing authority policy statements must contain a section that sets out the principles to be applied by the licensing authority in relation to the exchange of information with the Commission (s.29 and s.30 of the Act) and other persons (s.350 of the Act).
6.23 S.29 of the Act enables the Commission to require information from licensing authorities, including the manner in which the information is compiled, collated and the form in which it is provided, providing that it:
6.24 S.350 of the Act allows licensing authorities to exchange information with other persons or bodies for use in the exercise of functions under the Act. Those persons or bodies are listed in Schedule 6(1) as:
6.25 The licensing authority policy statement must set out how it will approach information exchange with other persons or bodies under the Act, and whether it intends to establish any protocols in this regard. The policy statement should also include the authority’s approach to data protection and freedom of information, in particular, how information will be protected, whether the confidentiality of those making representations will be maintained, what information will be shared with other agencies or persons and how information can be accessed by data subjects.
6.26 Further information regarding the exchange of information can be found in Part 13 of this guidance.
6.27 For the purposes of their policy statement, licensing authorities should confirm that they will act in accordance with the relevant legislation and guidance from the Commission and will adopt the principles of better regulation (detailed at paragraph 5.27).
6.28 Licensing authority policy statements must contain a section that sets out the principles to be applied by the licensing authority in exercising their inspection function (part 15 of the Act) and in instigating criminal proceedings (s.346 of the Act).
6.29 The statutory principles of good regulation and the Regulators’ Code (paragraph 5.27) apply to licensing authorities. This means that inspection and enforcement activities must be carried out in a way which is transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted, and promotes efficient and effective regulatory approaches which improve outcomes without imposing unnecessary burdens on business.
6.30 The policy statement should set out the principles to be applied by the licensing authority in relation to inspections. It is recommended that licensing authorities adopt a risk-based approach to inspection programmes and the policy statement should outline the criteria the licensing authority will use to determine the level of risk in respect of premises. Such an approach could include targeting high-risk premises which require greater attention, whilst operating a lighter touch in respect of low-risk premises, so that resources are more effectively concentrated on potential problem premises. If the licensing authority has a local area profile, as outlined at paragraph 6.47 onwards below, their inspection approach is likely to informed by it.
6.31 Many licensing authorities in England and Wales will have general enforcement policies which are in accordance with the codes of practice developed with the Crown Prosecution Service. Such licensing authorities may wish to refer to these codes in their policy statement, in relation to the management of criminal cases.
6.32 Further guidance on licensing authorities’ compliance and enforcement responsibilities is available in Part 36 of this guidance. This has been developed following discussions between the Commission, the police, licensing authorities and other law-enforcement and regulatory agencies to agree respective roles in relation to particular types of gambling and licensed premises.
6.33 The policy statement should set out what factors it is likely to take into account when considering applications for premises licences, permits and other permissions, and when determining whether to review a licence. This may be informed by the licensing authority’s local area profile and will include considerations such as the proximity of gambling premises to schools and vulnerable adult centres, or to residential areas where there may be a high concentration of families with children.
6.34 Although the policy statement should identify the factors to be considered, it should be clear that each application or review will be decided on its merits. Importantly, if an applicant for a premises licence can show how licensing objective concerns can be overcome, the licensing authority will need to take that into account in its decision making.
6.35 The policy statement should include details about how the licensing authority has taken or will take a decision in relation to a casino resolution. A licensing authority may resolve not to issue casino premises licences within its area. If it does so, the resolution must be published in its policy statement (s.166(5) of the Act).
6.36 The policy statement should include a firm commitment to avoid duplication with other regulatory regimes, so far as possible. For example, a range of general duties are imposed on the self-employed, employers and operators of gambling premises, both in respect of employees and of the general public, by legislation governing health and safety at work and fire safety. Therefore such requirements do not need to be included in the policy statement.
6.37 Previous legislation required that the grant of certain gambling permissions should take account of whether there was unfulfilled demand for the facilities. This is no longer the case and each application must be considered on its merits without regard to demand. The policy statement should reflect the ‘aim to permit’ principle (s.153 of the Act) and should not comment on whether there is demand for gambling premises.
6.38 However, the policy statement may comment on the location of premises and the general principles it will apply in considering the location so far as it relates to the licensing objectives. For example, a policy statement may set out that the licensing authority will carefully consider applications for premises licences and whether there is a need for conditions to mitigate risks, in respect of certain kinds of gambling located very close to a school or a centre for gambling addicts, in light of the third licensing objective. The policy statement must be clear that each case will be decided on its merits and will depend to a large extent on the type of gambling that is proposed for the premises.
6.39 Licensing authorities may wish to include other information in their policy statement to ensure clarity on their approach to local regulation, particularly the factors that will not be relevant to the exercise of their functions under the Act. This will ensure that applicants or persons who wish to make representations have all the necessary information to be able to do so, including what representations may not be relevant.
6.40 For example, licensing authorities may wish to explain in their policy statements that any objections to new premises or requests for a review should be based on the licensing objectives of the Act. The policy statement could make it clear that – unlike the Licensing Act 2003 and the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 – the Act does not include the prevention of public nuisance and anti-social behaviour as a specific licensing objective.
6.41 The Commission’s Licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP) formalise the need for operators to consider local risks.
6.42 Social responsibility (SR) code 10.1.1 requires licensees to assess the local risks to the licensing objectives posed by the provision of gambling facilities at each of their premises, and have policies, procedures and control measures to mitigate those risks. In undertaking their risk assessments, they must take into account relevant matters identified in the licensing authority’s policy statement.
6.43 Licensees are required to undertake a local risk assessment when applying for a new premises licence. Their risk assessment must also be updated:
6.44 The new SR provision is supplemented by an ordinary code provision that requires licensees to share their risk assessment with licensing authorities when applying for a premises licence or applying for a variation to existing licensed premises, or otherwise at the request of the licensing authority. Both provisions take effect from April 2016.
6.45 Where concerns do exist, perhaps prompted by new or existing risks, a licensing authority might request that the licensee share a copy of its own risk assessment which will set out the measures the licensee has in place to address specific concerns. This practice should reduce the occasions on which a premises review and the imposition of licence conditions is required.
6.46 Where a licensing authority’s policy statement sets out its approach to regulation with clear reference to local risks, it will facilitate operators being able to better understand the local environment and therefore proactively mitigate risks to the licensing objectives. In some circumstances, it might be appropriate to offer the licensee the opportunity to volunteer specific conditions that could be attached to the premises licence.
6.47 Licensing authorities will find it useful to complete their own assessment of the local environment as a means of mapping out local areas of concern, which can be reviewed and updated to reflect changes to the local landscape. For the purpose of this guidance, we refer to such assessments as local area profiles. Completion of a local area profile is not a requirement on licensing authorities but there are significant benefits for both the licensing authority and operators, in having a better awareness of the local area and risks. Importantly, risk in this context includes potential and actual risks, thereby taking into account possible future emerging risks, rather than reflecting current risks only.
6.48 An effective local area profile is likely to take account of a wide range of factors, data and information held by the licensing authority and its partners. An important element of preparing the local area profile will be proactive engagement with responsible authorities as well as other organisations in the area that can give input to map local risks in their area. These are likely to include public health, mental health, housing, education, community welfare groups and safety partnerships, and organisations such as GamCare or equivalent local organisations.
6.49 Good local area profiles will increase awareness of local risks and improved information sharing, to facilitate constructive engagement with licensees and a more coordinated response to local risks. The local area profile will help to inform specific risks that operators will need to address in their risk assessment, discussed at paragraph 6.41 above, which will form a part of any new licence application, or an application to vary a licence.
6.50 For example, an area might be identified as high risk on the basis that it is located within close proximity to a youth centre, rehabilitation centre, or school. The licensing authority might indicate, for example, that they would expect licensees to take appropriate steps to ensure that advertising relating to their premises, or relating to events at their premises, is not displayed at a time when children are likely to be near the premises. The licensee would be reasonably expected to have sufficient controls in place to mitigate associated risks in such areas and, if not, the licensing authority would consider other controls themselves.
6.51 It is for licensing authorities to determine whether to include a local area profile within the body of their policy statement or separately. If included in the policy statement, the licensing authority’s view of local risks would be a consideration for local gambling regulation in the context of s.153 of the Act. Licensing authorities may consider this is best achieved by making reference to the local area profile, so that it can be reviewed and updated without the need for full consultation.
6.52 There is no prescriptive template for a local area profile, as each assessment will be influenced by local circumstances. However it is expected that that it will draw upon the knowledge and expertise of responsible authorities and be updated on a regular basis to reflect changes to the local environment.
6.53 As stated, there is no mandatory requirement to have a local area profile, but there are a number of benefits:
6.54 Licensing authorities may wish to include a declaration in their policy statement which sets out that, in producing the final policy statement, it has had regard to:
6.55 Licensing authorities should note that the regulations and this guidance do not prevent them from including any additional information that they consider necessary or helpful.
6.56 In determining its policy statement, the licensing authority must give appropriate weight to the views of those it has consulted. In deciding what weight to give, the factors to be taken into account include:
6.57 A licensing authority should always be able to give reasons for the decisions it has made following consultation. Having regard to this guidance will be important for consistency.
6.58 S.349(3) of the Act requires licensing authorities to consult with the following on their policy statement or any subsequent revision:
6.59 The list of persons to be consulted is deliberately wide. This enables licensing authorities to undertake a comprehensive consultation exercise with anyone who may be affected by or otherwise have an interest in their policy statement.
6.60 It is a matter for licensing authorities to develop their own consultation practices, including the methods for consultation and who they consider it necessary to consult with, which might include consultation with relevant local groups, business and responsible authorities.
6.61 Any written consultation should follow best practice as set out by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Consultation responses should usually be published within 12 weeks of the consultation closing. Where licensing authorities do not publish a response within 12 weeks, they should provide a brief statement on why they have not done so. Consultation documents could be provided on the licensing authority’s website.
6.62 The licensing authority’s policy statement will have effect for a maximum of three years and must be reviewed thereafter, but the licensing authority may review and alter the policy at any time during the three year period. For example, licensing authorities will need to consider if their policy statement should be reviewed in the event of a change of policy, such as a change in local planning policy.
6.63 Where the policy statement is reviewed and changes proposed, licensing authorities must consult on any revision.
6.64 Authorities should note that where a statement is revised, it is only the revision that needs to be published and consulted on. So, for example, an authority may consult separately on whether to pass a casino resolution and then subsequently publish the resolution as part of the statement. This can be done without any need to review and reopen consultation on the main body of the statement. The same would apply if the licensing authority was updating its local area profile to take account of changing local risks. Any revisions must be published and advertised in the same way as a new statement.
6.65 The regulations referred to at paragraph 6.11 confirm that the form and content of revisions to the policy statement can be determined by the licensing authority, subject to the requirement that the revisions must include an introductory section at or near the beginning, summarising the matters dealt with in the statement and listing the persons consulted in preparing the revision.
6.66 Where the revision deals with any of the matters below, these must be presented in separate sections:
6.67 Before a statement or revision comes into effect, the regulations referred to at paragraph 6.11 require licensing authorities to publish a notice of their intention to publish a statement or revision. The notice must:
6.68 The regulations at paragraph 6.11 stipulate that the policy statement or any subsequent revision, must be published on the licensing authority’s website and be made available at reasonable times for inspection by members of the public at one or more public libraries in the area covered by the statement or in other premises situated in that area. The statement or revision must be published at least four weeks before it takes effect.
6.69 In order to ensure that applicants and persons who wish to make representations have the necessary information to be able to do so, the information set out below should be made available by licensing authorities are part of their communication strategy.
6.70 It is open to licensing authorities to include any of this information in their policy statement. However, they might think it more appropriate to make it available in another form, such as on their website.
6.71 S.156 of the Act requires licensing authorities to maintain a register of the premises licences that it has issued. The register must be made available, at any reasonable time, to the public who may request copies of the entries. Authorities should ensure that information regarding the location of the registers (eg on the website, in the council offices), when they can be viewed, and the cost of obtaining copies is made available to the public.
6.72 A database of premises licences is available on the Commission’s website and consists of information submitted by licensing authorities. The register is published with the caveat that the Commission cannot provide any assurance on the completeness and accuracy of this data. The Commission recommends that licensing authorities should be contacted directly for accurate and up-to-date premises information.
6.73 Under s.212(2)(d) of the Act, local authorities shall ‘aim to ensure that the income from fees… as nearly as possible equates to the costs of providing the service to which the fees relates’. Further information on fees setting in England, Wales and Scotland in available in Part 36.
6.74 Licensing authorities should ensure that information is available on how to make applications for licences and other permissions under the Act. In particular, it would be helpful if licensing authorities ensure that a full list of responsible authorities and their appropriate contact details is readily available. Application forms, where appropriate, should also be made available. Licensing authorities should note that there are no prescribed application forms for family entertainment centre, prize gaming or licensed premises gaming machine permits. As such, the licensing authority will need to make clear how applications for these permits should be made and in what form. Additionally, licensing authorities will need to ensure that information regarding making representations, and applying for a review of a premises licence, is also made available.
6.75 There are a range of statutory application forms and notices that licensing authorities are required to use as part of their gambling licensing responsibilities. A summary list of these can be found in Appendix E.
6.76 Information should be provided as to how functions are delegated under the Act (eg whether decisions are to be taken by a licensing officer, licensing sub-committee or full committee). A table setting out the scheme of delegation required by the Act may be the most appropriate method for this and is located in Part 4 of this guidance.
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