When is a gaming machine 'available for use' in AGC or bingo premises under the 20% regulations?
Gaming machine entitlements in AGC or bingo premises set out that only 20% of machines can be category B machines in order to ensure a balanced offering of gambling products and restrict harder gambling opportunities.
Machine design has changed in recent years and space-saving gaming machines - in the form of tablets, multi-player units and narrow/in-fill machines - have become available.
However, some of these machines appear to be designed primarily to maximise category B machine entitlements. For example, narrow/in-fill single player gaming machines designed to fit in between full-sized gaming machines have become two-player and more recently four-player machines.
Both variants were within the same size cabinet as the original single player machine, which had a width of approximately 10 inches. Such two and four-player machines are not actually available for use in any practical way by more than one player at a time – ie they cannot be played simultaneously by more than one person. Such narrow/in-fill machines, subject to appropriate spacing, can only be considered to be one gaming machine for the purpose of calculating the number of machines ‘available for use’.
We have therefore updated our ‘available for use’ guidance to make it clear that for the purpose of calculating the category B machine entitlement in gambling premises, gaming machines should only be counted if they can be played simultaneously by different players without physical hindrance.
Licensees should consider their own product offering alongside our updated guidance. Should licensees fail to address our concerns in this respect, we may take enforcement action. Individual licence conditions, for example, could be applied on a case-by-case basis if we had concerns that a licensee was not addressing this problem.
We will continue to monitor the situation and give further consideration to whether additional guidance or action is required to ensure that the intended product balance is maintained in gambling premises. Further information in relation to our on-going work on category B gaming machines and player protections can be found within the recent call for evidence.