The conviction of a Merseyside landlord for providing illegal gambling on licensed premises should be a warning to all publicans of the risk of hefty fines – or more significantly the potential review of their premises licence.   In this particular case, the investigation found 700 completed betting slips in the pub and a diary containing details of bets placed between December 2011 and July 2012.  The publican was sentenced to 100 hours unpaid work but HMRC also imposed back dated tax of almost £3,000 and penalties totalling £9,750.

Throughout the year we are presented with numerous opportunities to place bets on sporting events.  Anything from racing at Royal Ascot to who will win the World Cup.  Many flock to their local pub or bar to watch these events but publicans must be aware of the rules on betting in pubs.

Can you allow customers to bet in your pub?

The answer is that customers can bet in pubs but as landlord or designated premises supervisor you must not facilitate betting or be a betting intermediary.

It is illegal for either a publican or DPS to provide betting within pubs.  It is also illegal for bookmakers to provide betting in pubs. In 2013 a bookmaker in South Wales was fined £8,000 for operating betting in a pub on a regular basis.

No commercial betting is allowed in pubs at all regardless of the level of stakes or prizes.  You must not allow a bookmaker or his agent to sit in your pub and take bets.

As publican or DPS you cannot accept bets on behalf of a licensed bookmaker or allow customers to place bets using your telephone account as this is acting as a betting intermediary for which you can be prosecuted.

How can customers bet legally in pubs?

You can allow customers to watch sporting events in your premises and they may place bets in your pub amongst each other or using their own mobile telephone and their own telephone betting account.  They may not use your phone or your account to do so.  If you allow them to do so you will be acting as a betting intermediary.

You can provide betting slips in your pub as long as they are completed by the customer and taken by the customer himself to the bookmakers.  Again if you take the completed slips and stakes to the bookmakers, or even arrange for this to be done, then you are acting as a betting intermediary.

Penalties for facilitating betting or being a betting intermediary

You could face a prison sentence of up to 51 weeks and/or a fine of up to £5,000 for facilitating betting or being a betting intermediary.  Initially the more immediate penalty is that you will probably face a review of your premises licence.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.