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Guidance to licensing authorities

The Gambling Commission's guidance for licensing authorities.


1 - Licensing 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 of this guidance.

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 of this guidance. A non-exhaustive list of licence conditions is provided at Part 9 of this guidance.

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 (opens in new tab) and the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) (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 are 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 (for example, 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 floorwalkers 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. 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 Part 9 of this guidance and Part 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.

Next section
Section 153 principles
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