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Licensing decisions: Procedures and guidance for licensing hearings

Guidance to assist Directors or the Regulatory Panel to carry out their licensing functions in accordance with our policies and procedures and to comply with the law.

The legal framework for decision making

The decisions to be taken, whether by the Regulatory Panel or by employees acting under delegated powers, are all administrative decisions which must be taken in accordance with the framework set out in the Gambling Act 2005 and the principles of fairness and natural justice.

The Gambling Commission will ensure that licensing decisions are properly reasoned and evidence-based, and taken at the most appropriate level. The Commission will adopt a presumption in favour of decisions being made at the lowest appropriate level within the Commission, so that decisions of similar complexity and impact are general made at similar levels within the Commission.

The Commission exercises its functions in the interests of consumers and the wider public, having regard to, and in pursuit of, the licensing objectives in the Act. Decisions must be made openly, impartially, with sound judgment and for justifiable reasons. This means that decision makers must:

  • come to the decisions they make with an open mind and demonstrate they are open minded
  • make a decision only after due consideration of all information reasonably required upon which to base such a decision
  • seek further information if it is felt there is insufficient information to reach a decision.

It is important that decision makers have not already taken a firm view on a matter, nor give the appearance of having made up their mind before the formal consideration of an application. However, a decision maker will not have taken a firm view on a matter by:

  • listening to viewpoints from interested parties
  • making comments or giving a provisional view, provided that it is clear that the issue has not been prejudged
  • seeking information through appropriate channels
  • asking questions at a hearing which reflect issues raised.

If a decision maker has any concerns about procedural fairness then they should seek advice from the Commission’s legal advisers.

The Human Rights Act 1998

Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) provides, so far as relevant, as follows:

"In the determination of his civil rights and obligations . . . everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing . . . by an independent and impartial tribunal…"

The determination of a licence application is likely to amount to a determination of the applicant's civil rights or obligations within the meaning of Article 6(1) of the Convention. The Commission’s procedures have therefore been designed to ensure, so far as possible, that the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Convention are met. The right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Gambling) is also an important element in ensuring that an individual’s Convention rights are protected.

The purpose of the procedures which follow is to ensure a fair process, which accords with the requirements of natural justice and the Human Rights Act 1998. Inevitably there will be circumstances which have not been previously envisaged or anticipated and where it is necessary for the Director or Chair of the Panel to exercise judgement and flexibility in the way that the procedures operate.

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Referral of case to a licensing hearing
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Conflicts of interest
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