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Licensing Authority Bulletin April 2020


Local Authority returns data request postponed

As recently advised by email to LAs, in light of the collective effort required by Local Authorities in the fight against Covid-19 up and down the country, the Gambling Commission has taken the decision to postpone this year’s annual LA returns process. As a result, we no longer expect Local Authorities to provide data to us via our online portals by the 15th May.

Once the current situation has subsided, we will consider whether to seek this data at a later date or to cancel this year’s return entirely. At every stage we will keep you informed.

Advice to operators on keeping consumers safe

Protecting consumers will always be our highest priority and this will not change during this period. Our Chief Executive, Neil McArthur wrote out to gambling operators on the 25th March laying out our expectations of them to keep consumers safe at this time. Covid-19 guidance and FAQs for operators are updated on a regular basis.

The Commission has also published guidance outlining the protections that are in place to reduce the risk of gambling harm on consumers.

The Betting and Gaming Council (opens in new tab) has also published a new 10 pledge action plan, which set outs the standards expected of its members during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Headline findings for the year to December 2019 include:

  • 47% of people have gambled in the past four weeks (32% if you exclude those that just played the National Lottery);
  • 21% of people have gambled on-line in the past four weeks;
  • 0.5% of people aged 16+ in England are classified as problem gamblers according to the PGSI or DSM-IV (2018);
  • 29% of respondents agreed that gambling is conducted fairly and can be trusted;
  • 43% of respondents think that gambling is associated with crime.

Effect of gambling marketing and advertising research

GambleAware (opens in new tab) recently published research by Ipsos Mori (opens in new tab) in partnership with a number of universities regarding the ‘Effect of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable adults’.

Some of the key findings include:

  • There has been a 24% increase in the volume of gambling advertising between 2015 and 2018, with lotteries and bookmakers being the top spenders across all media
  • Only 4% of 11-24 year olds reported no exposure to gambling advertising in the last week
  • The type of things attracting children, young people and vulnerable adults to gambling adverts including celebrity endorsements, characters, colour, fun, glamour etc
  • Exposure to advertising didn’t always lead to action – but it did increase awareness of gambling and a sense of normalisation
  • For those young people who didn’t currently gamble, exposure to advertising was significantly associated with the likelihood to gamble in the future
  • In terms of online advertising spend, bookmakers outspent the other top 5 spenders by double
  • Across 5 football matches analysed, there was a reference to gambling every 21 seconds
  • Gambling ads perceived to portray gambling positively and are detracting from the risk

Credit card gambling ban

From 14 April consumers will not be able to gamble using a credit card as payment, adding a vital layer of protection for consumers. The ban extends to credit card gambling through e-wallets. It is an important step forward in protecting the 10.5 million people who gamble online from harm – with statistics showing that 800,000 individuals in the UK use credit cards to gamble. Research also highlights that 22% of online gamblers using credit cards are problem gamblers, with even more suffering some form of gambling harm.

Commission and industry collaboration makes progress on safer gambling

We have published an update on the collaborative work with the industry to make gambling safer and reduce harm across the sector. The work will lead to restrictions and prevention of under 25s being recruited to VIP schemes, a reduction on intensity of play such as the speed of spin and removing turbo buttons, and a joint effort to shield children and young people from online gambling advertising.

Commission's Business Plan

We have recently published our 2020 to 2021 Business Plan which outlines key priorities for the year ahead, including an ongoing commitment to reducing gambling harm, and continuing its work in making gambling safer, particularly online.

Public Health Scotland launched

Scotland’s new national public health body launched on 1 April and will take up the challenge of improving and protecting the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s people against the backdrop of an unprecedented public health emergency. The new organisation will play a significant part in the country’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, working in collaboration with NHS Boards, the Scottish Government, local authorities and many others to protect the nation’s health and save lives.

Public Health Scotland (opens in new tab) will be jointly accountable to both the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (opens in new tab) (COSLA). It brings the functions of Health Protection Scotland (opens in new tab) and Information Services Division (opens in new tab) (formally within NHS National Services Scotland) together with NHS Health Scotland (opens in new tab).

LA Bulletin April 2020 - Advice and guidance updates

Premises annual fee refunds and partial payments

Following a number of queries in relation to refunds of premises licence annual fees, we have signposted LAs to the information provided in last summer’s bulletin (opens in new tab).

The Commission’s view is that no regulations providing for refunds have been made under section 184(4) of the Gambling Act (opens in new tab), and so LAs do not have the discretion to refund annual fees for premises licences where the operator ceases to trade during the year.

Our view is that the power to authorise refunds is specifically reserved for the Secretary of State by virtue of section 184(4). Similarly, there is no scope within The Gambling (Premises Licence Fees) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 (opens in new tab) and or The Gambling (Premises Licence Fees) (Scotland) Regulations 2007 (opens in new tab) for pro-rata payment of annual fees where the premises intends to close within a few months of the fee being paid.

The Commission’s view is that a local authority doing either of these would be acting ultra vires; however, this is not legal advice and only the courts can make a final decision.

Licensing authority annual review of premises fees

At this time of year we always remind LAs in England and Wales about the annual review of their gambling fees. Fees in Scotland are centrally set by the Scottish Government.

Whilst LAs may have had to delay their review process due to Covid-19, please ensure that relevant colleagues are aware of the maximum fee levels, which are set by the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (opens in new tab) (DCMS). We have recently found examples of gambling fees which exceed the maximum.

In terms of fee levels in England and Wales, the Gambling Act (opens in new tab) states that LAs 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” (Gambling Act 2005 (opens in new tab) Section 212(2) (d))”

The DCMS (opens in new tab) guidance to LAs on setting premises licence fees therefore states that: “Licensing authorities should therefore review and publish their fees annually to ensure that the income from the premises licence fees in any one accounting period (that is, in any full financial year) does not exceed the full costs incurred by the authority in carrying out the relevant functions”.

The DCMS (opens in new tab) fee guidance, which is available on the LGA’s knowledge hub, also states the annual fee will cover the reasonable costs of compliance and enforcement work, including the cost of dealing with illegal gambling in a licensing authority’s area.

Fee setting must be transparent, and an LA should closely track its costs and be able to evidence how it arrived at the fee levels to demonstrate that they have been calculated on a cost recovery basis only.

Although ultimately it is a matter for the courts, we understand that the Supreme Court ruling in Hemming v Westminster does not impact on licensing authorities setting premises fees under the Act, as the Act does not fall within the scope of the EU Services Directive.

A range of guidance and information is available for licensing authorities:

LA Bulletin - E-Learning modules

The Institute of Licensing (opens in new tab) and the Commission have worked together to produce some gambling e-learning modules:

  • Gaming machines - three separate modules which cover the various types of gaming machines, the physical components and signage requirements and how to deal with non-compliant machines
  • Inspection powers and inspection preparation – designed to help co-regulators familiarise themselves with their powers to enter and inspect gambling premises and the preparation to undertake before conducting an inspection of any gambling premises.
  • Introduction to inspecting a betting premises – aimed at helping co-regulators improve their understanding of what to check when conducting an inspection of a betting premises - both inside and outside the premises.

These modules can be accessed by anybody via the IOL website (opens in new tab),and all are CPD accredited. Once on the website simply click on the ‘e-learning’ tab on the top right, then log in if you have an existing account, or request a log in via to get started.

We also have several refresher modules for licensing officers which compliance managers can deliver at licensing meetings. Topics include machines, permits, money laundering, poker. If you are interested in receiving such training, please contact your compliance manager.

LA Bulletin - Quick guides and template letters

Some quick guides are designed to give to operators when undertaking visits, others provide an accessible ‘how to’ for licensing staff:

LA Bulletin - Gambling Act statutory notices and forms

It is a statutory requirement that applicants use the correct forms to give proper notice of applications, variations etc to all responsible authorities, including the Gambling Commission.

We host all the statutory notices and application forms as they are no longer available on the DCMS (opens in new tab) website.

LA Bulletin - Find operating licence holders and premises licence register

In our public register, we publish the names of all companies and individuals who hold, or have applied for, operating licences in Great Britain along with the names of companies or individuals whose licences have lapsed, been revoked, forfeited, expired, suspended or surrendered in the last 6 months.

LAs must check the operator licence quoted on premises applications with the register before granting a premises licence. An application for premises licence may only be made by persons who have an operating licence which allows them to carry out the proposed activity for example a bingo operating licence for a bingo premises or have applied for an operating licence (although the premises licence cannot be determined until an operating licence has been issued).

Premises licence register

The information on our publicly available premises register is based on the statutory notifications received from LAs regarding grants, variations, revocations, lapses etc, and is updated monthly. LAs are encouraged to send all necessary correspondence to Where email notification has been made it is not necessary to follow up by post.

In relation to gaming machines, we only require notification of grant and or rejection of Club Machines Permits and Gaming Machine Permits. There is no requirement to advise us when an alcohol licence holder submits their notification for an automatic entitlement to two gaming machines. However, LAs must keep a record of how many automatic entitlement notifications it receives each year, as that information is requested in the annual LA returns.

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