If you have a question about your gambling, or the gambling of someone close to you, our FAQs from gambling consumers during lockdown may provide valuable information.
Try the new Gambling Commission website we're working on, and give us feedback.
Skip to main content

Back To TopLicensing objectives

5.1 In exercising their functions under the Act, particularly in relation to premises licences, temporary use notices and some permits, licensing authorities must have regard to the licensing objectives set out in s.1 of the Act, namely:

  • preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime
  • ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
  • protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

5.2 It is expected that the licensing authority will have set out their approach to regulation in their policy statement, having taken into account local circumstances. This is dealt with in more detail at Part 6.

Objective 1 : Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime

5.3 Among other matters, licensing authorities may need to consider the location of premises in the context of this licensing objective. For example, in considering an application for a premises licence or permit that is in an area noted for particular problems with disorder, organised criminal activity etc, the licensing authority should think about what, if any, controls might be appropriate to prevent those premises being associated with or used to support crime. That might include conditions on the premises licence, such as a requirement for door supervisors. The requirement for conditions might be determined by the operator’s own risk assessment or the local area profile carried out by the licensing authority, as detailed in Part 6. A non-exhaustive list of licence conditions is provided at Appendix F.

5.4 A licensing authority will need to consider questions raised by the location of gambling premises when:

  • formulating its statement of licensing policy
  • receiving relevant representations to an application
  • dealing with applications as a responsible authority in its own right
  • considering applications before it.

5.5 In the context of gambling premises licences, licensing authorities should generally consider disorder as activity that is more serious and disruptive than mere nuisance. Factors to consider in determining whether a disturbance was serious enough to constitute disorder would include whether police assistance was required and how threatening the behaviour was to those who could see or hear it. There is not a clear line between nuisance and disorder and the licensing authority should take the views of its lawyers before determining what action to take in circumstances in which disorder may be a factor.

5.6 Regulatory issues arising from the prevention of disorder are likely to focus almost exclusively on premises licensing, rather than on operating licences. However, if there are persistent or serious disorder problems that an operator could or should do more to prevent, the licensing authority should bring this to the attention of the Commission so that it can consider the continuing suitability of the operator to hold an operating licence.

5.7 Of course, licensing authorities are experienced in making judgements in relation to the suitability of premises, particularly those for which they have responsibilities under the Licensing Act 2003/Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, in which context they have wider powers to also take into account measures to prevent nuisance.

5.8 In relation to preventing disorder, licensing authorities have the ability under s.169 of the Act to attach additional conditions to premises licences, and are entitled to include a requirement for door supervision, as provided for in s.178 of the Act. If a person employed on door supervision would be required to hold a licence issued by the Security Industry Authority (SIA), that requirement will have force as though it were a condition on the premises licence. Further information on conditions on premises licences can be found in Part 9 of this guidance.

5.9 There are a number of voluntary initiatives that the gambling industry participates in to address issues such as underage access, staff safety and security. These change from time to time and licensing authorities are advised to check with local operators, for example when conducting inspections, as to which (if any) scheme the operator is a part of. For example, The Safe Bet Alliance’s Voluntary Code of Safety and Security National Standards for Bookmakers. Further information can often be found on the websites of industry trade associations.

5.10 Licensing authorities do not need to investigate the suitability of an applicant for a premises licence, including in relation to crime. The issue of suitability will already have been considered by the Commission, because any applicant (except occupiers of tracks who do not propose to offer gambling themselves) will have to hold an operating licence from the Commission before the premises licence can be issued. However, if the licensing authority receives information during the course of considering a premises licence application or at any other time, that causes it to question the suitability of the applicant to hold an operating licence, these concerns should be brought to the attention of the Commission without delay.

Objective 2 : Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way

5.11 Generally the Commission would not expect licensing authorities to find themselves dealing with issues of fairness and openness frequently. Fairness and openness is likely to be a matter for either the way specific gambling products are provided and therefore subject to the operating licence, or will be in relation to the suitability and actions of an individual and therefore subject to the personal licence. However, if licensing authorities suspect that gambling is not being conducted in a fair and open way this should be brought to the attention of the Commission so that it can consider the continuing suitability of the operator to hold an operating licence or of an individual to hold a personal licence.

5.12 In relation to the licensing of tracks, the licensing authority’s role will be different from other premises in that track owners will not necessarily have an operating licence. In those circumstances the premises licence may need to contain conditions to ensure that the environment in which betting takes place is suitable. Further information can be found in Part 20 of this guidance.

Objective 3 : Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling

5.13 In exercising their powers under s.153, licensing authorities should consider whether staff will be able to adequately supervise the gambling premises, as adequate staffing levels is a factor to consider regarding the prevention of underage gambling. The Commission would expect the operator and the licensing authority to work together to consider how any impediments to the supervision of premises might be most appropriately remedied. Supervision also applies to premises that are themselves not age-restricted (eg bingo and family entertainment centre (FEC) premises) but which make gambling products and facilities available.

5.14 Where a licensing authority considers the structure or layout of premises to be an inhibition or potential inhibition to satisfying this licensing objective, the licensee should consider what changes are required to ensure the risk is mitigated. Such changes might include the positioning of staff or CCTV, the use of floor-walkers and the relocation of the staff counter to enable direct line of sight. Licensing authorities will need to consider the proportionality of changes to the physical layout in relation to other measures that could be put in place.

5.15 If the operator fails to satisfy the licensing authority that the risks are sufficiently mitigated, it may be appropriate to conduct a review of the premises licence.

5.16 In relation to casinos, the Commission has issued a code of practice on access to casino premises by children and young persons, as provided for by s.176 of the Act. The code of practice is available as part of the Licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP) or as Gambling codes of practice - consolidated for all forms of gambling. In accordance with s.176 of the Act, adherence to the code will be a condition of the premises licence. Further information can be found in Parts 9 and 17 of this guidance.

5.17 The Act does not seek to prohibit particular groups of adults from gambling in the same way that it prohibits children. The Commission does not seek to define ‘vulnerable persons’ but it does, for regulatory purposes, assume that this group includes people who gamble more than they want to, people who gamble beyond their means and people who may not be able to make informed or balanced decisions about gambling due to, for example, mental health, a learning disability or substance misuse relating to alcohol or drugs.

5.18 Licensing authorities need to consider, in relation to particular premises, whether any special considerations apply in relation to the protection of vulnerable persons. This could be a local risk that is reflected in the licensing authority’s policy statement. Any such considerations need to be balanced against the authority’s objective to aim to permit the use of premises for gambling.

Back To TopSection 153 principles

5.19 S.153 of the Act provides that, in exercising its functions under Part 8 of the Act, a licensing authority shall aim to permit the use of premises for gambling in so far as it thinks it is:

  • a. in accordance with any relevant code of practice under s.24 (the LCCP)
  • b. in accordance with any relevant guidance issued by the Commission under s.25 (this guidance)
  • c. reasonably consistent with the licensing objectives (subject to a and b above)
  • d. in accordance with the licensing authority’s statement of licensing policy (policy statement) (subject to a to c above).

5.20 Whilst there is a presumption in favour of permitting the relevant premises to be used for gambling, the licensing authority may not do so unless satisfied that such use would be in accordance with this guidance, any relevant Commission code of practice, its own statement of licensing policy, and the licensing objectives.

5.21 In the unlikely event that a licensing authority perceives a conflict between a provision of a Commission code of practice or this guidance, and its own policy statement or view as to the application of the licensing objectives, the structure of s.153 makes it clear that the Commission’s codes and this guidance take precedence.

5.22 In determining applications for premises licences, the Act explicitly sets out two principles that licensing authorities should not have regard to :

  • s.153 makes it clear that in deciding whether or not to grant a licence, a licensing authority must not have regard to the expected demand for gambling premises that are the subject of the application
  • s.210 (1) of the Act states that ‘in making a decision in respect of an application...a licensing authority should not have regard to whether or not a proposal by the applicant is likely to be permitted in accordance with law relating to planning or building’.

5.23 A licensing authority is therefore afforded significant scope to exercise its powers under s.153 on the grounds that it does not encroach on the two principles set out above.

5.24 The requirements in s.153 are subject to the licensing authority’s power under s.166 to resolve not to issue casino premises licences. This means that a resolution not to issue a casino premises licence applies regardless of the matters set out in s.153.

Back To TopCodes of practice

5.25 The LCCP sets out the Commission’s general licence conditions and associated codes of practice provisions under the Act. The codes of practice are set out within Part II of the LCCP.

5.26 To assist licensing authorities in determining premises applications and inspecting premises, all the codes of practice are also available as a single document. The codes specify a number of requirements, many of which relate to social responsibility issues and these may be of particular interest where a licensing authority has concern about matters such as protection of the young and vulnerable. It should be noted that the codes also apply to situations in which the gambling being offered is not normally the responsibility of an operating licence holder. Examples include the code of practice for equal chance gaming and the code for gaming machines in clubs and premises with an alcohol licence.

Back To TopGood practice in regulation

5.27 Under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, any person exercising a specified regulatory function has a legal duty to have regard to the statutory principles of good regulation in the exercise of the function (Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, section 21). These provide that regulatory activities should be carried out in a way which is transparent, accountable, proportionate, and consistent and should be targeted only at cases in which action is needed. The Commission has regard to these principles in relation to its responsibilities and also has regard to the requirements of the Regulators’ Code (previously the Regulators’ Compliance Code), Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, 2014, issued under section 23 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. The purpose of the Code is to promote efficient and effective approaches to regulatory inspection and enforcement which improve regulatory outcomes without imposing unnecessary burdens on business.

5.28 The statutory principles of good regulation and the Code also apply to local authorities, who are under a statutory duty to have regard to them when fulfilling their regulatory functions under the Act. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform (Regulatory Functions) Order 2007, was amended by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform (Regulatory Functions) (Amendment) Order 2009, which, amongst other things, extended the application of the 2007 Order to local authorities in Wales and Scotland exercising regulatory functions under the Gambling Act 2005 - see Parts 3 and 7.

5.29 Guidance produced by Regulatory Delivery seeks to assist local authorities in interpreting the requirements of the Regulator’s Code for example in delivering risk-based regulation in relation to age restrictions. 

Age-restricted products and services framework sets out an agreed set of shared responsibilities and reasonable expectations for young people, their parents and carers, businesses, employees and regulators with regards to access to age restricted products and services. The document forms the foundations of the Age-restricted products and services: a code of practice for regulatory delivery.

Back To TopHuman Rights Act 1998

5.30 The Secretary of State has certified that the Act is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. In considering applications, and taking enforcement action under the Act, licensing authorities should bear in mind that they are subject to the Human Rights Act 1998 and in particular:

  • Article 1, Protocol 1 – peaceful enjoyment of possessions. A licence is considered a possession in law and people should not be deprived of their possessions except in the public interest
  • Article 6 – right to a fair hearing
  • Article 8 – respect for private and family life. In particular, removal or restriction of a licence may affect a person’s private life
  • Article 10 – right to freedom of expression.

Back To TopOther considerations

5.31 Licensing authorities should not turn down applications for premises licences where relevant objections can be dealt with through the use of conditions. In determining applications for premises licences and permits, a licensing authority may request as much information as it requires to satisfy itself that all the requirements set out at s.153 of the Act are met.

5.32 Licensing authorities must ensure that the application is in accordance with the relevant codes of practice, this guidance, the licensing objectives and the licensing authority’s own policy statement. There is, therefore, significant scope for licensing authorities to request additional information from the applicant where they have concerns about both new applications and variations.

5.33 Where concerns remain, licensing authorities may choose to attach conditions to the premises licence. Further details are provided in Part 9 and a non-exhaustive list of licence conditions is included at Appendix F of this guidance.

5.34 Licensing authorities should be aware that other considerations such as moral or ethical objections to gambling are not a valid reason to reject applications for premises licences. In deciding to reject an application, a licensing authority should rely on reasons that demonstrate that the licensing objectives are not being, or are unlikely to be, met, and such objections do not relate to the licensing objectives. An authority’s decision cannot be based on dislike of gambling, or a general notion that it is undesirable to allow gambling premises in an area (with the exception of the casino resolution powers).