Calming hosts' machine fears

Related tags Gaming machines License

Some readers running family pubs and the like might have been alarmed by the suggestion last week that they could be operating illegally. In...

Some readers running family pubs and the like might have been alarmed by the suggestion last week that they could be operating illegally.

In particular, they may have panicked over the fact that a new permit for family entertainment centres (FEC) would be required if they had a number of amusement machines in a family room.

This is not the case. The FEC permit, introduced under the Gambling Act 2005, is intended principally for amusement arcades operating a number of different types of machine. It does not and cannot take the place of the traditional Section 34 permit for gaming machines in pubs, which has enjoyed "grandfather rights" since the new laws took effect in September last year. Under no circumstances would you need to de-license any part of your premises to accommodate machines or go through the complications of applying for a new premises licence.

Those readers with existing Section 34 permits — and there are thousands — will need to do nothing until just before their existing permit expires. Then, those who have just two gaming machines will have an automatic entitlement to continue with those under the new law. All you have to do is to notify your local licensing authority — paying a one-off fee of £50, unfortunately — and then you are in the clear.

If you have more than two gaming machines, you will indeed need a replacement permit from the licensing authority, called a licensed premises gaming machine permit. This will cost £100, but again you only need to apply for this just before your existing permit expires. You are entitled to "grandfather rights" on your existing number of machines. If you want more, you may need to attend a hearing and can be refused. But the authority is not entitled to impose conditions on a permit.

Both the automatic entitlement and the permit last indefinitely, but permit holders have to pay an annual fee. Sample copies of the relevant application forms are on the British Beer & Pub Association website ( or you can ask your local licensing officer.

As far as legacy machine stickers are concerned, this is the responsibility of the machine supplier or operator, not the individual licensee. If you are in any doubt about this aspect, talk to your supplier who will be able to set your mind at rest, as I hope I have done on this page.

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