Legal advice: Gambling is a serious business

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The Gambling Commission has released a consultation paper outlining its proposals for codes of practice that will apply to exempt gaming in clubs and...

The Gambling Commission has released a consultation paper outlining its proposals for codes of practice that will apply to exempt gaming in clubs and premises licensed for sale of alcohol.

The commission notes that local licensing authorities will be particularly interested in the consultation, as the bodies that issue licences under the Licensing Act 2003 to premises wishing to promote or permit gaming on their premises. Under their new remit, local authoritities already have responsibility for issuing club gaming permits under the Gambling Act 2005.

The Gambling Act will be fully implemented in 2007 and permit gambling in premises licensed for the purpose and also where a particular exemption applies.

Pubs and other premises licensed for alcohol will be allowed to provide facilities for equal chance gaming, subject to conditions in the Act and regulations prescribed by the Secretary of State.

The regulations on gaming in clubs and licensed premises have not been finalised but propose to fix limits on what may take place there.

Under the Gaming Act 1968, cribbage and dominoes played in pubs do not require a gaming licence. Other types of equal chance gaming are also permitted, subject to the approval of the local licensing authority.

The Gambling Act 2005 removes the requirement for licensees to seek such approval but introduces strict conditions for any gaming, which include limits on stakes and prizes. It provides licensing authorities with powers to take action against individual premises in a range of circumstances.

The regulations propose to introduce a fixed limit of £5 per game staked by a player in any type of equal chance gaming in pubs and other premises with a bar. They may also set daily and weekly limits on the total amounts which may be staked or won at poker in individual premises.

A breach of either of the above limits or any of the other statutory conditions would, potentially, constitute a criminal offence. This means every pub with games caught by the regulations will need to ensure they comply with the law.

The codes of practice currently proposed seek to ensure that the Gambling Act 2005 objectives are upheld. These are:

  • 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 being harmed or exploited by gambling.

Preventing gambling becoming a source of crime and disorder

The commission recognises that the organisers are not responsible for the conduct of any player but that they and premises licence-holders should attempt to maintain a 'pleasant environment' for all customers and employees.

They should deny participation in gaming to anyone they become aware of cheating or making physical or verbal threats to others. They should do the same to any player who does anything that would constitute behaviour likely to create a less comfortable atmosphere for those taking part.

Ensuring that gaming is fair

The commission proposes that all stakes in organised poker tournaments or games should be made in chips issued by the organiser before the game begins.

All stakes in informal games should be cash and should be visible to players and organisers on the table at all times.

The commission proposes all gaming should be paid in cash and that credit should not be accepted. The onus will also be on the premises licence-holder to ensure there are no breaches of the limits set for gaming and that illegal side betting is prevented.

To assist with this, the commission proposes the operator should have appropriate record-keeping in place to demonstrate that the gaming complies with the statutory provisions.

The commission is also suggesting that there are codes put in place to ensure that people partaking understand the games they are playing prior to taking part and that they should be able to refer to the rules before and during the game.

Informal gaming between friends will not need to follow the standard set of rules. However, it is expected that all players partaking in these do understand the rules.

The commission also recommends that all equipment, such as cards, dice and chips, is provided by the premises, to ensure that the gaming is fair.


The Gambling Commission proposes a code relating to steps that should be put in place for checking the age of any customer who appears to be underage before they participate in gaming, taking proof of age only from acceptable forms of photographic identification.

The commission is expected to finalise the codes of practice in July.

Related topics Legislation

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