Tuesday 17 July saw the publication of the long-awaited Gambling Review Report. Initial optimism that the report would approve betting in pubs was dashed and the recommended rise in all-cash AWP machines maximum prizes from £15 to £25 was met with disappointment from the pub industry.
Two key messages for pub operators are contained in the report:
- Research indicates that people may gamble more than they intended and take more risks when they mix alcohol and gambling. Accordingly the further mixing of betting or any other gambling is not something the review body felt it could recommend.
- Commercial gambling should in principle be confined to premises which are specifically licensed for gambling and where that is their main purpose.
I set out below a guide to the report, which may enable you to form your own view on the proposals. The government has said that it would welcome the public's views, so if you want to seek to influence the course of future legislation on the subject, send your comments to email@example.com by 31 October 2001.
What is the Gambling Review Body?
It is an independent review body set up by the government to design a new regulatory structure for the gambling industry and to test public opinion. Jack Straw, the then Home Secretary, announced the intended review in December 1999.
What prompted the review?
This is best summed up in the words of the subsequent Home Office Minister, Mike O'Brien: "Much of our current gambling legislation is over 30 years old. Social attitudes have changed and the law is fast being overtaken by technological developments. The government wants to get rid of unnecessary burdens on business, while maintaining protections necessary in the public interest".
Who is on the review body?
It is chaired by Sir Alan Budd, the former chief economic advisor to the Treasury and Monetary Policy Committee and now Provost of Queen's College Oxford. The other nine members have been drawn from the world of business, law, economics, psychology and law enforcement and include the Chairman of the Gaming Board for Great Britain, Peter Dean.
What were the guiding principles of the review?
- The need to protect the young and vulnerable from exploitation and to protect all gamblers from unfair practices.
- The importance of preventing gambling from being carried out in a way which allows crime, disorder or public nuisance.
- The need to keep the gambling industry free from infiltration by organised and other serious crime, and from money laundering risks.
- The desirability of creating an environment in which the commercial opportunities for gambling, including its international competitiveness, maximise the UK's economic welfare.
How did the review body obtain evidence?
It issued an open invitation to the public to submit written recommendations by 31 July 2000 and posed twelve specific questions. Letters were sent to 230 individuals and organisations with a known interest in gambling. Over 200 submissions were received and oral evidence was heard from 23 individuals or organisations. Visits were made to a number of gambling operations.
What happens next?
The government will decide whether to act on the review body's recommendations.
What are the principal recommendations?
- A new single regulatory authority (called in the report the Gambling Commission) should license all gambling operators and key workers and a Gambling Appeals Tribunal should be established
- Licensing of premises should remain a local decision, but responsibility should pass from magistrates to local authorities with the Gambling Commission issuing procedural rules
- Gambling should be the primary purpose of premises licensed for gambling
- Local authorities should have the power to institute a blanket ban on all, or particular types of, gambling premises in a specified area
- Personal licences should be renewable at intervals to be determined by the Gambling Commission
- Bookmakers, as well as other gambling operators, should undergo a "fit and proper" test and be investigated in relation to their competence, knowledge, honesty and financial probity
- Betting shops should be able to offer any food but drinks should be restricted to non-alcoholic drinks
- The concept of permitted areas for casinos should be abolished but casinos should be of a minimum size
- Casinos should be allowed to provide live entertainment and alcohol on the gaming floor and slot machines with unlimited stakes and prizes
- The demand test should be abolished for casinos, bingo clubs and betting shops
- The 24 hour rule for admission to casinos and membership requirement for casinos and bingo clubs should be abolished
- Online gaming should be permitted
- All gambling debts should be legally enforceable
- With the exception of purchasing national lottery tickets and playing 10p stake/£5 prize machines in amusement arcades (which itself should be reviewed in five years' time), there should be a minimum age of 18 for all gambling
- Advertising of gambling products should be permitted, subject to a code of practice
- With the exception of direct use in gaming machines, credit cards should be permitted for gambling
- Jackpot machines should be removed from private clubs putting them instead on the same footing as pubs, but betting shops should be permitted to have four such machines
- The maximum stake for all-cash AWP machines (as installed in pubs) should be increased from 30p to 50p and the maximum prize should be increased from £15 to £25 with further increases only to be in line with inflation as and when agreed with the Gambling Commission
- Apart from pubs entitled as at 17 July 2001 to more than two AWP machines, no more than two such machines should be allowed in such premises
- AWP machines should be banned from unlicensed premises, such as cafés, fish & chip shops and minicab offices
- A number of measures to avoid an increase in gambling addiction, including the setting up of a voluntarily funded Gambling Trust
Where can I find out more about the law on gambling?
May I recommend the 2nd edition of Smith & Monkcom's Law of Betting, Gaming and Lotteries, published by Butterworths earlier this year. However, I had better declare an interest - I was one of the contributing editors. Happy reading!
by David Clifton, one of thePublican.com's legal experts from London solicitors Joelson Wilson.