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Guidance to licensing authorities

The Gambling Commission's guidance for licensing authorities.


4 - Exempt gaming

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 (opens in new tab)). 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) (opens in new tab). 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 (opens in new tab)). 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:

  • poker prize limits being exceeded on a regular basis
  • a rake being applied to a poker game
  • the siting of illegal gaming machines
  • failure to adhere to other exemptions and codes.

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 and/or 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:

  • attaching additional conditions to the premises licence
  • withdrawal of the permit
  • removal of automatic machine entitlement, attached to alcohol licence
  • review of the alcohol licence.
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Betting in clubs
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