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Members' clubs and commercial clubs

How to determine whether a club is a genuine members’ or commercial club.

Published: 28 May 2021

Last updated: 16 April 2021

This version was printed or saved on: 22 May 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/licensees-and-businesses/guide/members-clubs-and-commercial-clubs

Overview: The Gambling Act 2005 created a way of regulating gaming in two distinct types of club.

These are:

Both types of clubs must be set-up and mainly run for non-gambling purposes.

There are important differences between the two types of club. These differences also have an impact on the types of gaming which is allowed to take place at either club.

What is a members' club?

A members' club is a club which:

Example:
Members' clubs include working men’s clubs, branches of the Royal British Legion and clubs with political ties.

What is a commercial club?

A commercial club is a club which:

Example:
Commercial clubs include snooker clubs and gyms or sports facilities, where you'd pay to become a member, but have no say in how the club is run.

However, this does not include clubs such as tennis or cricket clubs. Typically, these clubs have a membership committee and constitution. Members elect people into roles such as chairperson or treasurer and can have a say in how the club is run.

Determining a genuine members' club

The following questions can help to determine a genuine club.

Questions about members and organisation

Is the main purpose of the club’s activities something other than providing gaming to its members?

Are profits retained in the club for the benefit of the members? This is the key difference between a members’ club and a commercial club.

Are there 25 or more members?

Are there genuine domestic (home) addresses on the register of members?

Are domestic addresses listed for every member?

Are members local to the club?

Do members participate in the activities of the club online? If so, it's less likely to be a genuine members’ club.

Do guest arrangements link a member to every guest?

Do guests know the person signing them in?

Are guests attending only for the gaming?

Is the 48 hour rule between applying and becoming a member properly applied?

Are there annual accounts for more than one year? This is an indication that the club is permanent in nature.

Questions about the constitution of the club

These include:

Who makes commercial decisions on behalf of the club and what are the governance arrangements?

Are there shareholders or members? Shareholders would indicate a business enterprise linked to a commercial club.

Is the members’ club permanently established?

Can people join with annual or quarterly membership?

Are there long term membership benefits?

People joining a club to attend and take part in a ‘private’ event are likely to still be members of the public, particularly if they've only gained membership status shortly before the event.

Whether or not alcohol is served does not affect the status of the club.