Scrapping gaming machine fee ‘would save pubs £500,000’

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Red tape: trade bodies want unnecessary gaming fees to end
Red tape: trade bodies want unnecessary gaming fees to end

Related tags: Gaming machines, License, Gambling commission

Business in Licensing (BIL) and the Gambling Business Group (GBG) have joined forces in a bid to remove the fee pubs have to pay to inform licensing authorities if they want to use their automatic entitlement on gaming machines.

The proposal would save pubs and machine suppliers £50 per notification and remove layers of wasteful administrative burden in the process, saving the UK pub sector at least £500,000 a year.

Qualifying alcohol-licensed premises are currently allowed to provide two gaming machines of category C or D status upon notification to the licensing authority under automatic entitlement.

British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds said the body had worked with the GBG on the proposals and is fully supportive of moves to remove red tape from the industry.

She added: “The BBPA has long campaigned for a change in the law in this area because it is an unnecessary cost burden on premises licence holders who wish to exercise their automatic right to offer amusement machines.

“In specific terms, pubs have to notify and pay a fee to the local authority every time the licensee changes, which we believe is unnecessary and costly. There is also an issue around the lack of flexibility to offer a mix of C and D machines on permits, which is also bureaucratic and not in keeping with low stake and prize amusement machines – which are ancillary to the main purpose of pubs.”

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nicholls said the current system of pubs notifying local authorities when they intend to fulfil an automatic entitlement is unproductive and totally redundant.

Huge amount of inconsistency in interpretation

She added: “There is also a huge amount of inconsistency in interpretation of the rules. Some local authorities require licensees to specify the type of machine they use and to notify when they change them.

“We are also seeing evidence of pubs being charged when the alcohol licence is changed with local authorities insisting on a separate notification regarding machines.

“The ALMR first submitted these proposals to the Government during the last Triennial review and the Gambling Red Tape Challenge.

“They will save time for licensees and will produce significant cost savings for the sector, particularly those operators with multiple sites.

“We have also been working closely with other industry bodies to put forward these proposals and attended this week’s Gambling Expert Group, and we continue to push for these sensible proposals to be adopted.”

Poppleston Allen partner Nick Arron said: “Taken together, this raft of changes should result in a reduction of costs to licensed businesses and machine operators.

“It should also result in the removal of unnecessary confusion around the notification process by those who aren’t fully conversant with the detailed wording of the Gambling Act 2005 and reduced cost and administration burden to licensing authorities.”

Enhance the quality of information

He added: “Along with increased transparency over the legality of the presence of gaming machines in pubs, improved enforceability of licensing and gambling law and improved regulation of licensed premises, it would enhance the quality of information held by the Gambling Commission on the numbers of gaming machines in British alcohol-licensed premises and protection of the public courtesy of transparent adherence to the Gambling Commission’s code of conduct.”

GBG chief executive Peter Hannibal said: “The current process requires the writing of a formal letter, accompanied by a £50 fee to notify the licensing authority of the premises licence holder’s intent to install up to two gaming machines of category C or D, to which they are entitled to under the Gambling Act 2005.

“The fee, which barely covers the costs of the administration process for the licensing authority, let alone the cost of enforcing or inspecting against the notice, represents an unnecessary cost to business while failing to add to the safety of the pub or effectiveness of the regulatory regime.

“Likewise, the present notification process fails to accurately deliver to the Gambling Commission data on the number of gaming machines in alcohol licensed premises.”

The BBPA called for a rise in fruit machine stake and prizes​, and for contactless payments to be allowed to help pubs meet consumer demands last year.

Related topics: Licensing law

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