The illegal use gaming machines in pubs remains an area of concern and something that the authorities are keen to crack down on. Pubs are only entitled to install gaming machines of a certain category and there are also restrictions on the machines that can be used by under 18s.
If a licensee is found breaching the law they may be prosecuted for breach of the Gambling Act. In addition, and more likely in some cases because it is quicker and more cost effective, the Licensing Authority may undertake a review of the premises licence.
What sort of machines can you have on your premises?
Under the Gambling Act 2005 a premises licenced for alcohol may have category C or D machines.
- A Category C machine has a maximum stake of £1 and maximum prize of £70.
- A Category D AWP machine has a maximum stake of 10p and maximum prize of £5 cash or £8 non-cash.
A licensed premises is automatically entitled to 2 Category C or D machines if it has a permit, is operative, informs the licensing authority and pays the required fee.
Code of practice
The Gaming Machine Permits Code of Practice applies to gaming machines and sets out conditions of permits, provisions relevant to gambling by children and best practice for the operation of machines.
It is a condition of the continued automatic entitlement to 2 machines that you comply with the conditions of the Code in relation to the location of those machines on your premises. This requires that:
- Machines are located so that their use can be supervised, either by staff whose duties include such supervision (including bar or floor staff) or by other means. Obviously supervising staff should be over 18 themselves.
- If you also have an ATM machine then your gaming machine must be situated so that a customer has to cease gambling at the machine in order to use the ATM.
Protection of Children
Children (i.e. those under 18) can play Category D, but not Category C machines, and it is the responsibility of the permit holder to ensure that this does not happen. You should therefore not locate a Category C machine next to a Category D machine as this would effectively give a child access to a machine that they are not allowed to play on.
The Code sets out best practice recommendations in relation to children although this is not a condition of the permit. The Code states that you should put in place procedures to prevent underage gambling. This includes age checks on customers who appear to be underage, and if they cannot provide ID, refusing to allow them to use a category C machine.
With regards to ID, this should only be accepted if it is clearly valid, contains a photograph from which the individual can be identified and is legible and has no visible signs of tampering or reproduction.
It is important that you have a policy which sets out how you deal with supervision of machines and age checks. Staff must also be trained so that they understand the policy and their responsibility to prevent underage gambling. You should also have in place procedures for dealing with a child who persistently tries to use a Category C machine including giving oral warnings, reporting him/her to the police and Gambling Commission and making information available on problem gambling.
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.