25.1 The Act creates a separate regime for gaming in clubs from that in other relevant alcohol licensed premises. It defines two types of club for the purposes of gaming:
This is an important distinction in respect of the gaming that may take place.
25.2 A members’ club is a club that is not established as a commercial enterprise and is conducted for the benefit of its members. Examples include working mens' clubs, miners' welfare institutes, branches of the Royal British Legion and clubs with political affiliations. Members’ clubs may apply to their local licensing authority for club gaming permits and club machine permits. Particular care should be taken when assessing applications for gaming permits which have been used for illegal poker clubs under the guise of members’ clubs. Experience very strongly indicates that taking care at the application stage in robustly checking the credentials of the applicant will save a great deal of time and effort afterwards. If a licensing authority is in any doubt as to the suitability of an applicant they should contact the Commission who will offer the appropriate support, advice and any intelligence that may be available.
25.3 In short, the statutory definition of a members’ club requires that:
25.4 The Act states that members’ clubs must have at least 25 members and be established and conducted ‘wholly or mainly’ for purposes other than gaming, unless the gaming is restricted to that of a prescribed kind (currently bridge and whist). Members’ clubs must be permanent in nature but there is no need for a club to have an alcohol licence.
25.5 Miners’ welfare institutes are associations established for recreational or social purposes. They are managed by representatives of miners or use premises regulated by a charitable trust which has received funds from one of a number of mining organisations. Miners’ welfare institutes may also apply for club gaming permits and club machine permits.
25.6 A commercial club is a club established for commercial gain, whether or not they are actually making a commercial gain. Examples include commercial snooker clubs, clubs established as private companies and clubs established for personal profit. Commercial clubs may only apply for club machine permits. There are established tests to determine a club’s status (see paragraphs 25.46 to 25.48) but if in doubt, legal advice should be sought.
25.7 Clubs and miners’ welfare institutes are able to provide facilities for playing bingo under s.275 of the Act or in accordance with a permit under s.271, provided that the restrictions in s.275 are complied with. These include that in any seven day period the aggregate stakes or prizes for bingo must not exceed £2,000 (Code of practice for equal chance gaming in clubs and premises with an alcohol licence). If that limit is breached the club must hold a bingo operator’s licence and the relevant operating,personal and premises licences must be sought. The bingo must comply with any code issued by the Commission under s.24 of the Act (Code of practice for gaming in clubs and premises with an alcohol licence). Further information about bingo in clubs can be found in paragraphs 18.12 to 18.15.
25.8 Commercial betting, regardless of the level of stakes, is not allowed in clubs. Those who facilitate such betting - whether designated premises supervisors or club officials - are providing illegal facilities for gambling and are breaking the law. Even where designated premises supervisors or club officials accept bets on behalf of licensed bookmakers, or just facilitate betting through their own telephone accounts, they are acting as betting intermediaries and could be prosecuted.
25.9 Licensed bookmakers with a full or ancillary remote licence may accept telephone bets from a customer watching an event in a club, as long as that customer has an individual account with them. It is illegal for bookmakers to sit in the club taking bets themselves. Similarly, it is also illegal for operators to put their agent in clubs, for example, in a working men’s club on a Saturday, to take bets.
25.10 Exempt gaming is generally permissible in any club. Such gaming must be equal chance gaming and be ancillary to the purposes of the club. This provision is automatically available to all such premises, but is subject to statutory stakes and prize limits determined by the Secretary of State.
25.11 Equal chance gaming is gaming that does not involve staking against a bank and the chances of winning are equally favourable to all participants. It includes games such as backgammon, mah-jong, rummy, kalooki, dominoes, cribbage, bingo and poker.
25.12 The Secretary of State has set both daily and weekly prize limits for exempt gaming. Different higher stakes and prizes are allowed for exempt gaming in clubs than are allowed in alcohol-licensed premises (SI No 1944/2007: The Gambling Act 2005 (Exempt Gaming in Clubs) Regulations 2007). These limits are set out in Appendix C to this guidance.
25.13 Exempt gaming should comply with any code of practice issued by the Commission under s.24 of the Act.
25.14 Clubs may levy a charge for participation in equal chance gaming under the exempt gaming rules. The amount they may charge is as prescribed in regulations (SI No1944/2007: The Gambling Act 2005 (Exempt Gaming in Clubs) Regulations 2007). See Appendix C for further details.
25.15 In order to qualify as exempt gaming, clubs may not charge a rake on games (a commission or fee deducted from the prize fund), or levy or deduct an amount from stakes or winnings.
25.16 Members’ clubs may only be established wholly or mainly for the purposes of the provision of facilities for gaming, if the gaming is of a prescribed kind. Currently, bridge and whist are the only prescribed kinds of gaming (SI No 1942/2007: The Gambling Act 2005 (Gaming in Clubs) Regulations 2007). So long as it does not provide facilities for other types of gaming, a club established wholly or mainly for the purposes of the provision of facilities for gaming (currently bridge and whist) may apply for a club gaming permit. In any other case, if gaming is the main purpose of the club, that gaming cannot be treated as exempt gaming under s.269 of the Act. For example, if poker was the main purpose of the club, it could not be provided as exempt gaming.
25.17 The gaming offered must not be linked to gaming in other premises and no person under 18 may participate in the gaming.
25.18 Gaming which meets these conditions needs no permission from the licensing authority. However, if an authority believes that these conditions are being breached, it has a power to remove the exemption and ban gaming in a specific pub or club. Examples of potential breaches include:
25.19 The Commission has issued a code of practice under s.24 of the Act in respect of exempt equal chance gaming.
25.20 The code of practice requires owners/licensees to adopt good practice measures for the provision of gaming in general and poker in particular. The code also sets out the stakes and prizes limits and the limits on participation fees laid out in regulations.
25.21 The emphasis of the regulations and the code of practice is on self-regulation by the management of the premises and licensing authorities should take a strong line in cases where breaches are detected. There are a number of powers available to licensing authorities in circumstances where breaches have been committed including:
25.22 S.273 sets out the conditions that will apply to the club machine permit, including that in respect of gaming machines no child or young person uses a category B or C machine on the premises and that the holder complies with any relevant provision of a code of practice about the location and operation of gaming machines. It should be noted that clubs do not have to have permanent premises or an alcohol licence.
25.23 Schedule 12 of the Act sets out the application process and regulatory regime for club gaming permits and club machine permits. Scottish Ministers may, with the consent of the Secretary of State, make separate regulations in relation to club gaming or club machine permits in place of Schedule 12, if the applicant or the holder of the permit is the holder of a relevant Scottish licence. Scottish Ministers have made regulations in this regard (SSI No 504/2007: The Club Gaming and Club Machine Permits (Scotland) Regulations 2007). In exercising a function under Schedule 12, the licensing authority must have regard to this guidance and, subject to the guidance, the licensing objectives.
25.24 A club gaming permit or club machine permit may not be issued in respect of a vessel or vehicle.
25.25 Under s.271 of the Act, the licensing authority may grant members’ clubs and miners’ welfare institutes (but not commercial clubs) club gaming permits which authorise the establishments to provide gaming machines, equal chance gaming(without having to abide by the stake and prize limits which would apply to exempt gaming in the absence of a permit) and games of chance as prescribed in regulations (SI No 1945/2007: The Gambling Act 2005 (Club Gaming Permits) (Authorised Gaming) Regulations 2007), namely pontoon and chemin de fer. This is in addition to the exempt gaming authorisation under s.269 of the Act.
25.26 Club gaming permits allow the provision of no more than three gaming machines. These may be from categories B3A, B4, C or D but only one B3A machine can be sited as part of this entitlement. See Part 16 of this guidance for information on machine categories.
25.27 Where a club has gaming machines, it is required to comply with the code of practice issued by the Commission on the location and operation of machines.
25.28 The gaming which a club gaming permit allows is subject to conditions:
Two games are linked if:
25.29 There are limits on stakes and prizes for poker played in those clubs and institutes that do not hold a club gaming permit issued by their local licensing authority. The introduction of these limits reflects significant recent growth in the popularity of poker, and the need to address the particular risks associated with such gaming. The regulations (SI No 1944/2007: The Gambling Act 2005 (Exempt Gaming in Clubs) Regulations 2007) impose a stakes limit of £10 per person per game, within a premises limit of up to £250 in stakes per day and £1,000 per week. The maximum fees that clubs may charge their members for participating in gaming has been set at £1 per day (or £3 if they hold a club gaming permit). Clubs and institutes holding a club gaming permit are also able to provide facilities for specified banker’s games.
25.30 To help clubs and institutes to comply with the full range of statutory requirements for gaming, the Commission has issued a statutory code of practice on equal chance gaming in consultation with interested parties. The provisions of the Code of practice for equal chance gaming in clubs and premises with an alcohol licence (which also applies to alcohol-licensed premises) include:
25.31 A 48-hour rule applies in respect of all three types of gaming, so that the games may only be played by people who have been members of the club for at least 48-hours, or have applied or been nominated for membership or are genuine guests of a member.
25.32 If a members’ club or a miners’ welfare institute does not wish to have the full range of facilities permitted by a club gaming permit, they may apply to the licensing authority for a club machine permit under s.273 of the Act. This authorises the holder to have up to three gaming machines of categories B3A, B4, C and D. Commercial clubs are not permitted to provide non-machine gaming other than exempt gaming under s.269 of the Act, so they should apply for a club machine permit (although such a permit does not allow the siting of category B3A gaming machines by commercial clubs).
25.33 In England and Wales, premises which operate membership-based social clubs (often work premises) are able to apply for a club machine permit. Before granting the permit the licensing authority will need to satisfy itself that the premises meet the requirements of a members’ club and may grant the permit if the majority of members are over 18 years of age. The permit will allow up to three machines of category B3A, B4, C or D but only one B3A machine can be sited as part of this entitlement. If under-18s use the club, for example they are apprentices, they may play the category D, but not the B4 or C machines. This does not apply in Scotland because only a club with a premises licence under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 may apply for a club machine permit (See SSI No 504/2007: The Club Gaming and Club Machine Permits (Scotland) Regulations 2007 and SSI No 150/2011: The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2011).
25.34 Holders of licensed premises club machine permits are required to comply with the code of practice, which has been issued by the Commission on the location and operation of machines.
25.35 The Secretary of State has made regulations in relation to applications for these permits, and Scottish Ministers have made separate regulations setting out the fees and applications requirements that apply in Scotland.
25.36 Applications must be made to the licensing authority in whose area the premises are located, and must be accompanied by the fee and documents prescribed in regulations (SI No 1834/2007: The Gambling Act 2005 (Club Gaming and Club Machine Permits) Regulations 2007 and SI No 2689/2007: The Gambling Act 2005 (Club Gaming and Club Machine Permits)(Amendments) Regulations 2007, SSI No 504/2007: The Club Gaming and Club Machine Permits (Scotland) Regulations 2007). Within a time prescribed in the regulations, the applicant must also copy the application to the Commission and to the chief officer of police. The Commission and the police may object to the permit being granted. The period within which such objections must be lodged and the grounds on which they maybe made are set out in regulations. If any objections are made, the authority must hold a hearing (unless consent has been given to dispense with it), otherwise no hearing is necessary.
25.37 A licensing authority may grant or refuse a permit, but it may not attach any conditions to a permit. The authority has to inform the applicant, the Commission and the police of the outcome of the application and of any objections made.
25.38 Licensing authorities may only refuse an application on the grounds that:
25.39 If the authority is satisfied that (a) or (b) is the case, it must refuse the application. Licensing authorities shall have regard to relevant guidance issued by the Commission and (subject to that guidance), the licensing objectives.
25.40 In cases where an objection has been lodged by the Commission or the police, the licensing authority is obliged to determine whether the objection is valid.
25.41 There is a fast-track procedure for clubs in England and Wales which hold a club premises certificate under s.72 of the Licensing Act 2003. Under the fast-track procedure there is no opportunity for objections to be made by the Commission or the police, and the grounds upon which an authority can refuse a permit are reduced. This is because the club or institute will already have been through a licensing process in relation to its club premises certificate under the 2003 Act, and it is therefore unnecessary to impose the full requirements of Schedule 12. Commercial clubs cannot hold club premises certificates under the Licensing Act 2003 and so cannot use the fast-track procedure. The fast-track procedure also does not apply in Scotland.
25.42 Those clubs applying for permits by way of conversion of their pre-existing 1968 Gaming Act Part II or Part III club registrations do not have the fast-track procedure available to them, even if they hold club premises certificates. In these instances, the club must still send a copy of the application to the Commission and chief officer of police. However, the Commission (and the police) may not object to the application and the licensing authority is, in fact, obliged to grant the application. However, care should be taken that the emphasis of the club is not being changed, to become a dedicated poker club for example.
25.43 The grounds on which an application under this process may be refused are that:
25.44 The licensing authority has to satisfy itself that the club meets the requirements of the Act to obtain a club gaming permit. It is suggested that applicants for permits should be asked to supply sufficient information and documents to enable the licensing authority to take account of the matters discussed in paragraphs 25.46 to 25.46, at the time they submit their applications to the licensing authority. Licensing authorities should be particularly aware that club gaming permits may be misused for illegal poker clubs.
25.45 In determining whether a club is a genuine members’ club, the licensing authority should take account of a number of matters, such as:
25.46 The constitution of the club could also indicate whether it is a legitimate members’ club. Amongst the things to consider when examining the constitution are the following:
25.47 Other than bridge and whist clubs, which are separately catered for in regulations, a club cannot be established wholly or mainly for purposes of gaming. In applying for a club gaming permit, a club must therefore provide substantial evidence of activities other than gaming. Useful questions which a licensing authority should consider include:
25.48 A visit to the premises before granting of the permit may assist the licensing authority to understand how the club will operate.
25.49 The licensing authority should satisfy itself that the gaming on offer meets the conditions set out in the Act and relevant regulations. To do this, the licensing authority may wish to ask questions of the applicant or ensure that the exempt gaming complies with these conditions. The conditions are:
25.50 Once the licensing authority has issued a club gaming permit, various aspects need to be considered by licensing authorities in monitoring the club gaming permit. In addition to monitoring whether the club continues to meet the requirements of the Act for a club gaming permit (that is, whether it remains a genuine members’ club) and whether the gaming meets the conditions set out in the Act and the relevant regulations.
25.51 Where clubs have computers available for use by members, licensing authorities should be aware that these computers may be taken to be gaming machines in certain circumstances. Generally, a computer is not a gaming machine merely because there is a possibility of accessing a gambling website via the internet. However, a computer will be taken to be a gaming machine if it is knowingly adapted or presented to facilitate or draw attention to the possibility of it being used for gambling.
25.52 Each case will need to be looked at individually and ultimately the decision regarding whether a machine is a gaming machine is one for the courts to make.
25.53 The precise circumstances in which the facilities are offered - including the environment in which they are offered and the relationship with other gambling facilities provided - will need to be taken into account when assessing the status of those facilities. The following indicators may help in making decisions about whether a computer is knowingly adapted or presented to facilitate or draw attention to the possibility of it being used for gambling. This list is not exhaustive, and the presence or absence of any single factor is not necessarily conclusive:
25.54 Licensing authorities should note that, as a consequence of the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014, gambling operators who advertise to consumers in Great Britain are required to hold an operating licence.
25.55 Any of the factors mentioned in the preceding paragraphs in this section may give rise to the need to review the club gaming permit or take appropriate enforcement action.
25.56 The Commission provides advice and guidance to licensing authorities on permits and related matters and, on a case-by-case basis, will undertake targeted collaborations with licensing authorities in order to establish principle and precedent, and a clear understanding of the legal requirements.
25.57 An agency that may also be able to assist licensing authority enquiries is HM Revenue & Customs. If a club is trading under the auspices of a club gaming permit (as a members’ club) but is in fact a commercial club with, for example, their main activity being poker, they would be liable for gaming duty. Licensing authorities should bear in mind that clubs of this nature have premises to maintain, as well as staff and other costs, so the sums involved may be significant.
25.58 Under the Act, a private club with a club gaming permit cannot run the premises wholly or mainly for the purposes of gaming, nor can the club make a profit as all funds must be applied for the benefit of the member.
25.59 There have been occasions where club gaming permits have been misused by individuals seeking personal financial gain. One case led to the successful prosecution of a private member’s club owner under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The club owner had been granted a club gaming permit but was later charged with money laundering in relation to the running of an illegal poker club. More poker-related case studies are in the LA Toolkit.
25.60 The permit will have effect for ten years, unless it ceases to have effect because it is surrendered or lapses or is renewed. However, a permit granted under the fast-track procedure does not expire, unless it ceases to have effect because it is surrendered, cancelled or forfeited or it lapses.
25.61 The holder of the permit must pay to the licensing authority the first annual fee, and an annual fee before each anniversary of the issue of the permit, in accordance with regulations.
25.62 Permits may be amended to meet changing circumstances. Licensing authorities may only refuse a variation if on consideration of a completely new application they would refuse the permit.
25.63 The permit, which is to be kept on the premises it relates to, must be in a form specified by the regulations and, if obtained through the fast-track procedure, must identify the appropriate club premises certificate it relates to. It is an offence not to produce the permit when requested to do so by a constable or an enforcement officer.
25.64 If a permit is lost, stolen or damaged, the holder may apply for a replacement, subject to payment of a prescribed fee. The licensing authority must grant the application if it is satisfied that the permit has been lost, stolen or damaged and, where the permit is lost or stolen, a report has been made to the police. It should issue a copy and certify it as a true copy.
25.65 A permit will lapse if the holder of the permit stops being a club or miners’ welfare institute, or if it no longer qualifies under the fast-track system for a permit. In addition, a permit will cease to have effect upon being surrendered to the authority. A notice to surrender must be accompanied by the permit or a statement explaining why it cannot be produced. The authority must inform the police and the Commission when a permit has been surrendered or lapsed.
25.66 The licensing authority may cancel the permit if:
25.67 Reference here to ‘a permit condition’ means a condition in the Act or in regulations that the permit is operating under.
25.68 Before cancelling a permit, the licensing authority must give the permit holder at least 21 days’ notice of the intention to cancel and consider any representations that they may make. The authority must hold a hearing if the permit holder so requests and must comply with any other procedural requirements set out in regulations. If there is no appeal, the cancellation will take effect 21 days after notice of the intention to cancel was given. The authority must notify the permit holder, the Commission and the police that the permit has been cancelled and the reasons for the cancellation.
25.69 In England and Wales, in accordance with paragraph 24 of Schedule 12 of the Act, an application for renewal of a permit must be made during the period beginning three months before the licence expires and ending six weeks before it expires. The procedure for renewal is the same as for an application. In Scotland, the Club Gaming and Club Machine Permits (Scotland) Regulations 2007 apply. Permits granted in terms of these regulations do not expire, although they can cease to have effect in certain circumstances, can be cancelled and can be varied.
25.70 The duration of the permit will not be curtailed while a renewal application is pending, including an appeal against a decision not to renew.
25.71 If, at the time a permit is renewed, the applicant holds a club premises certificate, the fast-track procedure will apply as it does when application is first made for the permit. This does not apply in Scotland.
25.72 The rights of appeal in relation to permits are discussed in Part 12 of this guidance.
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