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Are you taking a punt on the Gambling Act 2005?

26 July 2007

By 1 September 2007 the Gambling Act 2005 will be fully implemented.

However, it has already made some significant changes to the way the gambling industry operates and more changes are on their way in the near future. The new Act introduces three Licensing Objectives:

1. Keeping gambling crime-free 2. Making sure that gambling is fair and open 3. Protecting children and vulnerable adults

A striking change over the last year results from one of the Governments primary aims: the removal of Section 34 Permits for Amusements with Prizes (AWPs) from non-gambling premises such as chip shops and taxi offices.

To achieve this, no further applications for the grant or renewal of these Permits for non-gambling premises have been allowed since 1 August 2006. Existing Permits after that date continue to have effect until 31 July 2009, or until their expiry date, whichever occurs first. Once expired, it will not be possible to renew these Permits.

Section 34 Permits for gambling and/or alcohol licensed premises

Other premises which hold current Permits under Section 34 of the Gaming Act 1968 must convert those permissions before they expire. Since November 2005 all applications that were traditionally dealt with by the licensing magistrates in conjunction with the sale of alcohol have been the responsibility of the licensing authority.

There are numerous transitional provisions dealing with conversion of Permits, which aim to minimise disruption to businesses and reassure existing operators of their rights under the new regime. Continuation rights will allow operators to continue making machines available whilst their applications are being resolved. Under certain circumstances, Grandfather rights will confer on operators a right to have their existing permission converted into the equivalent permission under the 2005 Act.

In other cases Grandfather rights may not be necessary or relevant - this is because pubs and other premises permitted to sell alcohol receive an automatic entitlement to two category C or D machines subject to simple notification. Premises in this situation must notify the licensing authority prior to expiry of their Section 34 permit and pay the prescribed fee. Beware: if the fee is missed then the premises forfeit their automatic entitlement and will be at risk of prosecution for breach of the Gambling Act 2005.

The various transitional provisions are detailed in nature and their application depends upon several factors including:

  • The types of licences or permits the premises currently hold
  • The expiry date of those licences and permits
  • The number of machines
  • The category of machines
  • The type of premises
  • Whether the premises intend to make more machines available in the future

General compliance requirement for all operators

In addition to ensuring that they have the correct Licences and Permits, gambling operators must comply with the Gambling Commissions Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice and the rules set out in the Schedules to the new Act itself. From 1 September 2007 this will apply to all gambling operators, including those with old Permits that have yet to expire (for example, some Section 34 Permits for alcohol licensed premises will continue until 31 August 2010).

Even premises which hold Permits that have yet to expire are likely to be legally required to take some action in order to comply. The Codes include requirements such as:

  • Putting into effect policies and procedures to promote socially responsible gambling
  • Ensuring there is sufficient information to enable players to understand the games and odds they face
  • Providing gambling information in other languages if the operator advertises in other languages
  • Following procedures to prevent underage gambling
  • Implementing a code of practice on door supervision to keep children out of over 18 premises

This brief overview of the Gambling Act 2005 highlights only some of the changes to certain premises. The Act goes much further and it is important to note that ALL gambling operators will be affected by the Gambling legislation and associated Codes. They are detailed and complex and therefore we strongly urge all gambling operators to seek compliance advice immediately, particularly as some of the transition dates for Continuation rights and Grandfather rights have passed and September 2007 is not so far away!

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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