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Guidance to licensing authorities

The Gambling Commission's guidance for licensing authorities.


6 - Test purchasing and age verification

36.27. Test purchasing is one method by which the Commission or licensing authorities may, in England and Wales, measure the compliance of licensed operators or groups of licensed operators, with aspects of the Act subject to Primary Authority (PA) arrangements, detailed in paragraph 36.36. Test purchasing in Scotland is the subject of an Enforcement Protocol with offences prosecuted by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (opens in new tab).

36.28. Licensing authorities are familiar with the methodology in relation to the sale of age restricted products and are aware of the importance of following current guidance in this area, in order to ensure that tests are carried out in a manner that is risk-based and fair, with due regard to the welfare of young people involved in the test purchasing.

36.29. As noted above, in the first instance it is up to operators to ensure they are compliant with the Act and the associated regulations. The Commission’s approach in relation to test purchasing in general and age verification in particular is set out in our Advice note on test purchasing in England and Wales (opens in new tab) (this advice note does not form part of the Guidance to licensing authorities).

36.30. The Commission encourages operators to manage the business risk associated with both underage access to premises and permitting a young person to gamble. Where an operator is required to commission a third party to test the effectiveness of their policies and procedures or put its own testing in place as required by the Licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP) and where the results of the tests are shared with us, we are less inclined to conduct our own test purchasing.

36.31. Local authorities, whether acting as a licensing authority or through another function such as trading standards, should consult with operators in the first instance where they have concerns about the underage access and age verification policies or whose premises they plan to test purchase. This will enable them to identify what programmes are in place to manage the business risk and take these into account in planning a test purchase exercise.

36.32. Local authorities should also consult with the Commission before planning such exercises in order to ensure that there is no conflict between any ongoing investigation or enforcement activity related to either the premises or the operator that we have initiated and the test purchase operation. Local authorities in England and Wales are also subject to PA arrangements.

36.33. Local authorities undertaking their own test purchase operations are requested to share any test purchasing results with the Commission.

36.34. However, local authorities will have in place democratically determined priorities and resource allocations as well as the ability to respond to complaints and intelligence related to specific premises. As a result, irrespective of the actions of an operator on their overall estate, test purchasing may be deemed to be an appropriate course of action.

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