Publicans hit hurdle with bets at the bar

By Robert Mann contact

- Last updated on GMT

Not worth a punt: publicans run the risk of losing their licence if they are caught facilitating illegal gambling on their premises
Not worth a punt: publicans run the risk of losing their licence if they are caught facilitating illegal gambling on their premises
In the build-up to the highly anticipated Cheltenham Festival next week (12 March), publicans are being warned it’s ‘odds-on’ that those operating as bookmakers without a licence will be caught.

We are a nation of punters – this ever evident – with UK gambling flourishing during the past decade.

It is currently estimated the UK gambling industry now takes a staggering £14bn a year from punters looking to put their money where their mouth is.

But where betting is permitted in licensed shops, racecourses and casinos, under no circumstance should commercial betting at all – regardless of the level of stakes – happen in pubs or clubs.

Race for advice

Above all, it is not socially responsible and those who facilitate such betting in pubs and clubs – whether publicans, designated premises supervisors or club officials – are providing illegal facilities for gambling and are, consequently, breaking the law.

With the race on for advice about betting in pubs, we spoke to Richard Bradley, a solicitor specialising in betting and gaming at Poppleston Allen, to find out the form.

“It’s not worth gambling your licence,” Bradley exclaimed.

“Commercial betting is not permitted in pubs, and bookmakers cannot meet people inside venues to accept bets.

“Publicans should not accept bets on behalf of bookmakers, nor should they allow their own telephone betting account to be used by customers to place bets.”

Risky business

Bradley concluded that licensees need to be “aware of the risks” they face if they are caught facilitating illegal gambling on their premises.

“It is fine for customers to watch sport on television and place bets using their own telephone account, or use their laptops or mobiles to access their own online accounts.

“But for those wanting to run the risk, the offence for facilitating illegal betting carries a penalty of up to 51 weeks of imprisonment and an unlimited fine.”

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds echoed Bradley’s thoughts and added indefinite risks it brings with it.

“From the Royal Ascot to the World Cup, many flock to their local to watch the sport,” Simmonds added.

“Some customers like to bet as part of this experience, but breaking the laws of betting in pubs risks a hefty fine or the potential review of the premises licence, so it’s important publicans are aware of the rules.

“First and foremost, it is illegal for a licensee to provide betting in their pub and it is also illegal for a licensee to allow bookmakers to take bets in their pub.”

Major scrutiny 

Pubs came under major scrutiny just last year after an undercover operation revealed that nine out of 10 pubs in England were routinely allowing children to play age-restricted fruit machines.

The watchdog revealed that youngsters use gaming machines in a “concerning” number of pubs despite the expectation that staff prevent under-18s from doing so and the requirement for clear signage indicating age restrictions.

The gambling industry might contribute more than £3bn to the UK economy and employ more than 100,000 people, but it can be addictive.

If you have questions or concern about your own gambling or about that of a friend or family member, you can contact BeGambleAware​ for free, confidential advice.

Related topics: Legislation

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