18.1 Bingo is not given a statutory definition in the Act although two types of bingo are commonly understood:
18.2 The game and rules of bingo have evolved to the point where, despite the absence of any formal industry standard, the way in which bingo is played is broadly similar throughout Great Britain. Bingo is equal chance gaming. The Commission has published its view of what bingo is and how it differs from other forms of gambling. This can be found in the advice note What constitutes bingo (this advice does not form part of the Guidance to licensing authorities).This advice was developed with the support of key stakeholders from the bingo industry.
18.3 Cash bingo is the main type of bingo played in commercial bingo premises. They also offer prize bingo, largely as games played in the intervals between main stage games. This means that only premises with a bingo premises licence, or a large casino premises licence issued under the Act (where the operator holds a bingo as well as a casino operating licence), will be able to offer bingo in all its forms.
18.4 As well as commercial bingo premises, bingo can be found in other gambling premises. Prize bingo is traditionally a game played in arcades, especially seaside amusement arcades, or at travelling funfairs. For these operators, prize bingo is subject to the allowances for prize gaming in the Act. This means that, subject to limits on participation fees and prizes, adult gaming centres, licensed and unlicensed family entertainment centres, and travelling fairs, (or any premises with a prize gaming permit) are able to offer prize gaming, which includes prize bingo. In this form of gaming, the nature of the prize must not be determined by reference to the number of people playing the game, and the nature or the size of the prize must not be determined by reference to the amount paid for or raised by the gaming. See Part 27 of this guidance for a fuller discussion of prize gaming.
18.5 Licensing authorities need to satisfy themselves that bingo can be played in any bingo premises for which they issue a premises licence. An operator may choose to vary their licence to exclude a previously licensed area of that premises, and then apply for a new premises licence, or multiple new premises licences, with the aim of creating separate premises in that area. Essentially providing multiple licensed premises within a single building or site. Before issuing additional bingo premises licences, licensing authorities need to consider whether bingo can be played at each of those new premises.
18.6 Under the Act, children and young persons (anyone up to the age of 18) cannot be employed in providing any facilities for gambling on bingo premises, and children (under 16) cannot be employed, in any capacity, at a time when facilities for playing bingo are being offered. However, young persons, aged 16 and 17, may be employed in bingo premises (while bingo is being played), provided the activities on which they are employed are not connected with the gaming or gaming machines. Licensing authorities are able to find information about the restrictions that apply in Licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP).
18.7 Children and young people are allowed into bingo premises; however they are not permitted to participate in the bingo and if category B or C machines are made available for use these must be separated from areas where children and young people are allowed. Social Responsibility (SR) code 3.2.5(3) states that ‘licensees must ensure that their policies and procedures take account of the structure and layout of their gambling premises’ in order to prevent underage gambling.
18.8 S.172(7), as amended, provides that the holder of a bingo premises licence may make available for use a number of category B gaming machines not exceeding 20% of the total number of gaming machines on the premises. For example, a premises with a total of 25 gaming machines available for use can make five or fewer category B3 gaming machines available on that premises. Premises that were licensed before 13 July 2011 are entitled to make available eight category B gaming machines, or 20% of the total number of gaming machines, whichever is the greater. There are no restrictions on the number of category C or D machines that can be made available. Regulations state that category B machines at bingo premises are restricted to sub-category B3 (SI 2007/2158: Categories of Gaming Machine Regulations 2007 ) (but not B3A) and B4 machines.
18.9 The gaming machines must remain within the licensed area covered by the premises licence. In the unusual circumstance that an existing bingo premises covered by one premises licence applies to vary the licence and acquire additional bingo premises licences (so that the area that was the subject of a single licence will become divided between a number of separate licensed premises) it is not permissible for all of the gaming machines to which each of the licences brings an entitlement to be grouped together within one of the licensed premises.
18.10 Equipment operated by a bingo operating licence for the purpose of playing bingo, for example what are currently known as mechanised cash bingo, electronic bingo terminal (EBTs) and video bingo terminals (VBTs), will be exempt from controls on gaming machines provided they comply with any conditions set by the Commission and, in the case of EBTs, do not hold gaming machine content.
18.11 An EBT that offers gaming machine content in addition to bingo content is considered to be a gaming machine and would count towards the total number of gaming machines or towards the offering of bingo. Any EBTs that do not offer gaming machine content would not count towards the number of gaming machines.
18.12 Bingo is a class of equal chance gaming permitted on alcohol-licensed premises, and in clubs and miners’ welfare institutes, under the allowances for exempt gaming in Part 12 of the Act. There are regulations setting controls on this form of gaming, to ensure that it remains a low stakes and prizes activity (SI 2007/1940: The Gambling Act 2005 (Exempt Gaming in Alcohol-Licensed Premises) Regulations 2007 and SI No. 1944; The Gambling Act 2005 (Exempt Gaming in Clubs) Regulations 2007).
18.13 In addition, new rules are laid down in the Act about the playing of bingo specifically in alcohol-licensed premises, clubs and miners’ welfare institutes. Where the level of bingo played in these premises reaches a certain threshold, it will no longer be authorised by these rules and a bingo operating licence will have to be obtained from the Commission for future bingo games. Even in this circumstance, bingo can still only be offered under the rules for exempt gaming. The aim of these provisions is to prevent bingo becoming a predominant commercial activity on such non-gambling premises.
18.14 The threshold is reached if the bingo played during any seven-day period exceeds £2,000 (either in money taken or prizes awarded) once in a year, referred to as ‘high turnover bingo’. There is a legal duty on the licensee or club to inform the Commission if they offer high turnover bingo in any seven day period. This allows the Commission to monitor the bingo activity on the premises, and discuss with the relevant licensee or club the point at which a bingo operating licence may be needed. A ‘high turnover period’ begins with the first day of the seven day period in which the threshold was exceeded and lasts for a year. If a second period of high turnover bingo occurs within that year, a bingo operating licence will be required. Where bingo is played in a members club under a bingo operating licence no premises licence will be required.
18.15 If it comes to the attention of licensing authorities that alcohol-licensed premises or clubs or institutes are playing bingo during the course of a week which involves significant stakes and prizes, that makes it possible that the £2,000 in seven days is being exceeded, authorities should inform the Commission. To help clubs and institutes to comply with the full range of statutory requirements for gaming, the Commission has developed a statutory code of practice The Code of Practice for gaming in clubs and premises with an alcohol licence.
18.16 The eight large casinos will be able to offer bingo. Bingo will be permitted as part of their casino premises licence and they will not require a separate bingo premises licence, though they will need to obtain a bingo operating licence (which may be combined with their casino licence) in order to offer facilities for bingo at a casino. The standards in this respect will be no lower than for operators seeking only to provide facilities for bingo alone.
18.17 Part 9 of this guidance discusses the mandatory and default conditions that attach to premises licences.
18.18 A notice stating that no person under the age of 18 years is permitted to play bingo on the premises shall be displayed in a prominent place at every entrance to the premises.
18.19 No customer shall be able to enter bingo premises directly from a casino, an adult gaming centre or betting premises (other than a track).
18.20 Over 18 areas, within bingo halls that admit under-18s, must be separated by a barrier with prominently displayed notices stating that under-18s are not allowed in that area and with adequate supervision in place to ensure that children and young people are not able to access these areas or the category B or C machines. Supervision may be done either by placing the terminals within the line of sight of an official of the operator or via monitored CCTV.
18.21 Any admission charges, the charges for playing bingo games and the rules of bingo must be displayed in a prominent position on the premises. Rules can be displayed on a sign, by making available leaflets or other written material containing the rules, or running an audio-visual guide to the rules prior to any bingo game being commenced.
18.22 Any ATM made available for use on the premises shall be located in a place that requires any customer who wishes to use it to cease gambling in order to do so.
18.23 Bingo facilities in bingo premises may not be offered between the hours of midnight and 9am. However, there are no restrictions on access to gaming machines in bingo premises.
18.24 The following policy objectives summarise the key elements that underpin the approach to controlling where gaming machines may be played:
18.25 The Act and associated regulations set out a comprehensive regulatory framework for controlling gaming machines. By linking different machine entitlements to different types of premises, the framework seeks to ensure the number and power (in terms of stakes, prizes and speed of play) of machines is proportionate to the premises. For such a framework to have any meaningful effect it must be possible for regulatory authorities and consumers to distinguish between different gambling premises.
18.26 The LCCP requires (Social Responsibility Code Provision 9) that gaming machines are only made available in combination with the named non-remote activity of the operating licence. So, unless a bingo premises operator offers substantive facilities for non-remote bingo it should not make gaming machines available for use on the premises in question. To contain the unavoidable risk to the licensing objectives associated with gaming machines, premises which offer machines must be appropriately supervised.
18.27 The current regulatory framework prescribes that category B gaming machines may only be made available in licensed gambling premises and not in locations which may prompt more ambient gambling such as pubs. Maintaining distinctions between different gambling venues allows individuals to make a deliberate choice whether to enter that particular gambling environment. In carrying out their functions under the Act licensing authorities should satisfy themselves that a premises applying for or licensed for bingo is operating or will operate in a manner which a customer would reasonably be expected to recognise as a premises licensed for the purposes of providing facilities for bingo.
18.28 Licensing authorities are not being asked to impose a ‘one size fits all’ view of how a bingo premises should look and function. Rather they are ensuring that a premises licensed for the purposes of providing facilities for bingo is operating as such and is not merely a vehicle to offer higher stake and prize gaming machines.
18.29 In exercising its functions under the Act a licensing authority should take account of the relevant code of practice on ‘controlling where gaming machines may be played’. It is specifically obliged to do so when exercising functions under section 153 of the Act. In circumstances where a licensing authority considers an existing premises is not compliant with these general requirements they should contact the Commission at the earliest opportunity.
18.30 Both the Commission and licensing authorities have the power to attach specific conditions to operating or premises licences in circumstances where additional assurance is required. The Commission favours the approach of general conditions for all supplemented by operator-specific conditions in cases where novel or contentious operating models are used which include the provision of gaming machines. This is to deliver the policy objectives above and ensure the risk to the licensing objectives is minimised.
18.31 In the Commission’s view the above approach would ideally be adopted at licensing stage. Licensing authorities should ensure that they request all the information required from an applicant for a new premises or for a variation to an existing premises in order to satisfy themselves as to the matters set out at s153 of the Act. This includes the codes of practice and this guidance. The approach of adding case specific conditions can equally be deployed in respect of an existing unit where concerns arise or when changes are made to the operating model.
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