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This guide informs licensing officers of what to do in the event they discover an illegal gaming machine.
Published: 31 March 2018
Last updated: 5 August 2021
This version was printed or saved on: 7 December 2023
Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/authorities/guide/illegal-gaming-machines-a-quick-guide-for-licensing-officers
Overview: In order to site gaming machines some form of authorisation is normally required*. Typically this is:
* Except if there is no opportunity to win a prize from the machine, or the only prize is another opportunity to play the machine, or the value of the prize does not exceed any payment made to use the machine
Your public register of gambling premises will confirm whether a licence has been granted. A copy of the licence must be available for inspection.
Qualifying alcohol licensed premises are entitled to two gaming machines of category C or D upon notification to the licensing authority. A gaming machine permit is required if there are more than two category C or D gaming machines sited (see part 26 of the Guidance to licensing authorities).
Clubs, miners’ welfare institutes, and commercial clubs require a club machine permit for gaming machines to be sited within their premises.
The gaming machine category should be clearly labelled on the body of the cabinet, as this is a legal requirement. If no category label is found, the category may be shown on the video screen.
This label is made up of a table showing the model type, game version, serial number, category type and date of manufacture.
This label tells the customer how much can be won in any one game. The text reads: "No prize greater than the value of one hundred pounds can be won from this machine in any one game".
This label is made up of the different categories that apply to a machine. It will be printed on tamper proof material. It also shows the legacy labels for category C and D machines, as these may still be in circulation.
Genuine skill with prizes machines (SWPs) can be sited without permissions. However, the Gambling 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 to make the machine commercially viable.
Generally, if a machine being marketed as an SWP offers prizes over £50 the Commission may be doubtful whether it can be a genuine SWP. Licensing authorities are asked to inform the Commission of any SWP innovations which exceed this limit by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
In the past machines have been marketed as SWP machines offering games designed to look like recognised games of chance (such as roulette, bingo or poker). Such machines are gaming machines and cannot be sited as SWPs.
Our advice note Is a prize machine a gaming machine? provides further information to help determine whether a prize machine is a gaming machine.
If the premises does not have authorisation to site gaming machines you should:
Under Section 317 of the Gambling Act 2005 an authorised person may ‘remove and retain anything if he reasonably believes that it is being used or has been used in the commission of an offence under this Act’.
This power has been used by a licensing authority to seize suspected illegal machines. You may wish to obtain advice as to the agreed regulatory processes within your licensing authority.
If you intend to seize a machine which you believe is an illegally sited gaming machine in order to prosecute the operator, some of the details you would need to verify are as follows:
Does the machine play a game of chance or is the game presented as involving an element of chance? There may be more than one game available, take note of the types of game – roulette, poker, reel games etc.
Record the maximum stake for the machine. The maximum stake figure may be different for each game offered, check them all and record details.
Record the maximum prize available. The maximum prize figure may be different for each game offered, check them all and record details. Note some games may not give a maximum prize figure so you will need to calculate them from the odds given, for example, £10 on a single number in roulette at odds of 35 to 1 would mean the prize is £350.
Does the machine have a category or sub-category label fitted? This should be visible but may be on a help screen, or similar, within the game.
Does the machine have any problem gambling help information? This should be visible and must include a telephone number.
Does the machine have a ‘no players under 18’ notice? This should be visible but need not be fitted to a category D machine.
In relation to illegal machine supply, the Gambling Commission has acted with HMRC and/or the police and the local authority to seize illegal machines.
There is a requirement for those manufacturing and supplying gaming machines to be licensed by the Gambling Commission, as well as those involved in certain aspects of machine maintenance.
Our effort is focused on the illegal supply of gaming machines. Illegal suppliers often conduct their transactions across a number of licensing authorities. Your help in supplying information about illegally sited machines helps us to take action against illegal suppliers and reduce the incidence of illegally sited machines in your area.
Please email email@example.com, enter ‘Illegal Gaming Machine Supply’ in the subject line and provide: