Legal hurdles pose a barrier for race nights

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gambling, Race

There's no doubt that horse racing is extremely popular in pubs. It seems a logical extension, I suppose, to try and run the book yourself. But...

There's no doubt that horse racing is extremely popular in pubs. It seems a logical extension, I suppose, to try and run the book yourself. But beware! Several readers have contacted me recently because they have seen details of a race night, bought as a "package" from a specialist firm, to promote in their bars and to attract more people to come along. The problem is that race nights continue to cause concern to the local police, so it is best to know the legalities. In fact, police have been known to object to extensions being granted in respect of race nights, on the grounds that you cannot have an extension for an illegal event. This is just one initial problem for anyone wanting to run such an event. But I am bound to say that there are difficulties, not only with the actual law but also with the way in which the event is advertised and run. It is claimed, however, that race nights may be run as a lottery or as "incidental gaming" to another exempt entertainment. The lottery route is usually not applicable to pubs, because it requires a private club or organisation ­ tickets or chances cannot be sold to the public. Neither can the lottery be advertised. So the only route for licensees appears to be the exempt entertainment under the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976. Fine in theory, but difficult in practice. Why? Well the race night which you are so keen to promote cannot be advertised as the main attraction! It must not be "the only or the only substantial inducement" for persons to attend the event. That seems a bit stupid when you are laying out all that money to stage a crowd-puller. But that's how the law sees it. The simple fact is that this section of this Act was never intended to cover a mainstream activity of this kind. It was drafted to exempt certain limited forms of gambling at local events such as village fêtes and dances, so that they did not fall foul of the gaming laws. There is another problem with running a race night under this section. The whole of the proceeds of the entertainment, after deducting expenses must be devoted to purposes other than private gain. This means that you cannot make any money out of any aspect of the evening and it must all go to charity or back to the participants. Some promoters hold that this only means the money from the horse racing. Not true. The Act clearly states that it is the proceeds of the "entertainment" which must mean the whole event, of which the racing films have to be only a part. A strict reading of that wording could include bar profits as well! So you can now see why there are difficulties in running so-called race nights. To abide by the law you cannot use the gambling as an "inducement", so your advertising has to feature some other attraction. You may mention it in advertising, but only as a subsidiary item. And the whole event must be non-profit making. There is no law which specifically covers filmed race nights, so they have to find a legal loophole to make them work. But it is hardly surprising that the police are suspicious when there have been examples of full Tote and bookmaking services on display and a good deal of money riding on the outcome. So you have to approach this form of entertainment very carefully indeed.

Related topics: Licensing law

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