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UFECs are premises which are wholly or mainly used for making gaming machines available.
Published: 1 February 2021
Last updated: 22 November 2023
This version was printed or saved on: 1 December 2023
Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/authorities/guide/unlicensed-family-entertainment-centres-ufecs
Overview: Unlicensed family entertainment centres (UFECs) require a permit from the local licensing authority. Permits have effect for 10 years unless they are surrendered or lapse.
Permits that were first granted in 2007 will expire in 2017.
All UFEC permits must be kept on the UFEC premises.
GLA: Part 24 Unlicensed family entertainment centres
An unlicensed family entertainment centre is only entitled to make category D machines available. This is reflected by the very light touch form of regulation provided by the UFEC permit. The entity making machines available on the premises (the arcade operator) does not need a Gambling Commission operating licence. However, the entity supplying machines to the business (the machine supplier) must be licensed by us. You can check if a business is licenced on our licence register.
A licensed family entertainment centre is entitled to make both category C and D machines available. It is subject to similar controls to many other gambling businesses – the premises need a full premises licence from the licensing authority and the entity making machines available on the premises requires a Gambling Commission operating licence, as does the supplier of the machines.
Only premises that are wholly or mainly used for making gaming machines available may hold a UFEC gaming machine permit or an FEC premises licence. Both a licensed FEC and an UFEC are classified as premises.
See the Gambling Act's definition of family entertainment centres in Section 238 (opens in new tab)
Because of this, it is generally not permitted for such premises to correspond to an entire shopping centre, airport, motorway service station or similar. Typically, the machines would be in a designated, enclosed area.
A more detailed explanation of what counts a premises can be found in Guidance to licensing authorities (GLA).
Gaming machines, which should be contained within the UFEC or FEC premises, should not be located in corridors and walkways which form part of the larger building.
You should check that the operator has made suitable arrangements to source machines from licensed suppliers. Details of all licence holders are available on our website and you should let us know if you have concerns about possible unlicensed suppliers.
You should satisfy yourself that any risk to the licensing objectives, particularly in relation to the protection of children and other vulnerable people is being suitably managed.
It is not sufficient if there are no dedicated staff supervising the FEC area, whether using a premises licence or permit. Placing responsibility on security or cleaning staff associated with the wider development (for example, a shopping centre) is unlikely to be adequate.
This may be a subject suitable for inclusion in your gambling policy statement.
If the permit holder is claiming, or believes that, machines are skill machines we would encourage you to require them to provide written assurance from the supplier/manufacturer that this is indeed the case.
Find out more about skill with prize machines.
An application for the renewal of a UFEC permit must be made during the period beginning six months before the permit expires and ending two months before it expires.
For example if the UFEC permit was issued on 1 October 2007, the applicant would need to apply for renewal between 1 April 2017 and 1 August 2017.
You must have regard to the GLA and the licensing objectives when considering the renewal application and you may also consider asking applicants to demonstrate:
The process for UFEC renewal is exactly the same as for a new application. The renewal fee is also the same as for a new application (£300). In Scotland, UFEC fees are set out in The Gambling Act 2005 (Fees) (Scotland) Regulations 2007 (opens in new tab)
If an application for the renewal is pending, or an appeal against a decision on an application for renewal is pending, then the permit will not cease to have effect at the end of the period of ten years.
There is no statutory application (or renewal) form for UFECs. However, we have developed a form which you may wish to use, along with a template renewal reminder letter.
Form of FEC gaming machine permit is a statutory form to be used when the permit is issued.
An application for a permit must specify the premises in respect of which the permit is sought. You must specify the form and manner in which the application should be made and specify what other information and documents should accompany the application (such as plans, insurance certificates etc).
You must seek reassurances the requirements for UFECs are being met, in particular that the premises is being used as an unlicensed family entertainment centre and that there is no premises licence in effect for the same premises.
GLA: Part 7 Premises
You must also be satisfied that the application meets the principles of your gambling statement of policy in relation to UFECs. Under the mandatory conditions attached to licensed Adult Gaming Centre (AGC) premises, there can be no direct access from an UFEC to an AGC.
You may only refuse to renew a UFEC permit on the grounds that:
The standard procedures in relation to appeals apply in the event that the UFEC renewal is refused.
GLA: Part 12 Rights of appeal and judicial review Schedule 10 of the Gambling Act 2005: Family Entertainment Centre Gaming Machine Permits (opens in new tab)
If you are in any doubt on receipt of a renewal UFEC application, please consult your local compliance manager.
If a permit has been issued when it was not appropriate, you should seek legal advice.
However, paragraph 14 of Schedule 10 of the Act states that “a permit shall lapse if the licensing authority notify the holder that the premises are not being used as a FEC”.
This provides for a permit to lapse if you give notice to the holder that the premises are not being used as a UFEC (for example where a permit has been issued in respect of a shopping centre, airport or similar). You may then invite a further application for more suitably restricted premises.
In the event that an FEC premises licence was granted to premises that should not have qualified for one, the standard procedures set out in Part 10 of the GLA apply, as for any other class of gambling premises licence.
Depending on circumstances this might include sharing concerns with the premises licence holder (exploring the possibility of them applying to vary the premises licence to render it compliant), seeking a review of the premises licence and/or imposing conditions.