Gambling regulation: Councillor handbook (England and Wales)

Gambling regulation: Councillor handbook (England and Wales) updated guidance 2018 COVER
The LGA has updated its councillor handbook on gambling to coincide with local authorities revising their statements of licensing principles ahead of publication in January 2019.


The 2005 Gambling Act was a pivotal point in gambling regulation in the UK. By liberalising previous gambling legislation, it established gambling as a mainstream leisure and social activity. A recent Gambling Commission survey on gambling participation found that, in the year to March 2023, overall participation in any gambling activity was 44 per cent.

But even since the Gambling Act was introduced, the gambling landscape has changed significantly. Technological developments mean that significant numbers of people gamble remotely. This has gone hand in hand with a significant increase in the volume of gambling advertising, particularly linked to sports.

We have also seen significant changes in the physical presence of gambling in our local areas. While much of the concern that accompanied the introduction of the Act centred on the prospect of large scale casinos, in practice it has been patterns of betting shop clustering and the use of fixed odds betting terminals inside those betting premises, that have generated significant political and public concern.

Originally developed in 2015 to provide an overview of the responsibilities binding on licensing authorities and gambling operators in their areas, this handbook has been updated to reflect key developments since then, including the publication of the Gambling Act Review.

Councillor Heather Kidd
Chair, LGA Safer and Stronger Communities Board

The regulatory framework – an overview

The Gambling Act 2005 (the Act) consolidated and updated previous gambling legislation, creating a framework for three different types of gambling: gaming, betting and lotteries. Gambling can take the form of nonremote gambling, which takes place in a gambling premises, and remote gambling, which is typically undertaken by phone or online. Councils do not have any regulatory responsibilities in relation to remote gambling.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is the lead government department for gambling issues, however there is some cross-government engagement, with departments such as the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) being involved in treatment of gambling related harms

The Gambling Commission

The Gambling Commission is responsible for regulating gambling in accordance with the Act, and for issuing operating licences to gambling businesses and personal licences to individuals. In regulating gambling, the Commission is required to have regard to the three licensing objectives for gambling, which are:

  • preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being to support crime
  • ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
  • protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

Principles to be applied by licensing authorities 

Gambling Act 2005 s.153:

  • statement of principles
  • licensing objectives
  • licensing conditions and codes of practice
  • guidance to licensing authorities

The Commission is required to aim to permit gambling, providing that it is consistent with the licensing objectives.

To help fulfil its role, the Commission attach licence conditions and issue codes of practice relating to how gambling facilities should be provided, and guidance to licensing authorities (district councils and unitary authorities) on how to implement their responsibilities under the Act. 

Licensing authorities and types of gambling

Licensing authorities are a key partner in gambling regulation, with a responsibility for overseeing non-remote gambling in their local areas. This involves:

  • setting the local framework for gambling through their statement of principles
  • considering applications and issuing licences for premises where gambling takes place, with conditions where appropriate
  • reviewing or revoking premises licences
  • issuing permits for some forms of gambling
  • undertaking inspection and enforcement activities, including tackling illegal gambling.

Although betting shops are the most commonly recognised gambling premises, councils are responsible for overseeing gambling in many different types of business:

  • betting shops
  • bingo halls
  • adult gaming centres
  • family entertainment centres (FECs)
  • casinos
  • race-courses and other tracks (defined as sporting venues, eg football or rugby stadiums)
  • alcohol licensed premises and clubs that have gaming (‘fruit’) machines members’ clubs with gaming permits.

While most gambling establishments require a premises licence before they are able to operate, licensing authorities issue ‘permits’ to unlicensed family entertainment centres (uFECs) (typically found in seaside resorts, motorway service stations or airports) and to alcohol licensed premises and clubs.

Licences or permits enable businesses to provide specified maximum numbers and types of gaming machine. There are different types of gaming machines, with varying stakes (the amount allowed to be gambled at one time) and prizes (the amount the machines are allowed to pay out), and some types of machine are only allowed in specific premises.  

Like the Gambling Commission, licensing authorities are bound by a statutory aim to permit and must grant premises licences so long as applications are in accordance with:

  • the Gambling Commission’s codes of practice
  • the guidance to local authorities
  • the licensing authority’s own statement of principles
  • the three licensing objectives.

Since the Act was introduced, a number of licensing authorities have been frustrated at their limited grounds to refuse premises applications. Authorities that have tried to reject applications – on the basis that there are already clusters of betting shops on their high streets – have generally seen their decisions overturned on appeal. This is partly because of the aim to permit, and  because the licensing objectives under the Act are different to those under the Licensing Act 2003, in that they do not include public safety or the prevention of public nuisance, creating a very high bar for refusing premises applications on the basis of licensing objectives.

Councils should note that the Gambling Act Review contains a commitment to consult on introducing cumulative impact assessments into gambling licensing legislation. Whilst the LGA would have preferred to abolish ‘the aim to permit’ altogether, the introduction of cumulative impact assessments will be a welcome development. Cumulative impact assessments are used to regulate alcohol premises under the Licensing Act 2003 and are a tool which give councils greater scope to refuse an application for an alcohol licence in areas where there are concerns that the density of premises in a particular area is having a negative impact on the licensing objectives. 

The white paper states councils will be required to identify high risk zones in their gambling licensing policy and local area profile, and that gambling applicants will need to prove they will not add to the risk of harms in a local area. A cumulative impact assessment will also create a presumption against granting new licences in areas where there is already a saturation of gambling premises. These changes will require amendments to primary legislation, and the Government is committed to doing this when parliamentary time allows. 


Planning considerations, the aim to permit and gambling premises

Currently, neither the planning or licensing frameworks have provided clear options for refusing new or additional gambling premises. A number of councils previously sought to use Article 4 Directions under the planning system to remove permitted development rights to convert other types of premises into betting shops without the need for planning permission. However, changes to the planning system in 2015 effectively introduced this approach across all areas. As a result of the change, betting shops in England are now classed as sui generis (a use that does not fall within any use class). This means that any new betting shop must apply for full planning permission. The only exception to this relates to a new betting shop tenant moving into a unit formerly used (as its last known use) as a betting shop. In this circumstance, the new tenant would be able to operate under the previous user’s planning use class. 


This means that planning authorities now have some powers to manage the opening of new or additional betting shops in their areas. If an authority wished to refuse a new application for planning permission, however, it would still need to do so by reference to its local plan and associated evidence base. Local plans need to be approved through examination by the national planning inspectorate, and councils would need a robust evidence base to include restrictions on betting shops. 


Since 2016 Newham council has adopted a pioneering cumulative impact approach in their Local Plan, which introduces limits to numbers of betting shops (and hot food takeaways), ensuring they are separated from each other in the street scene. This policy prevents new betting shops from locating in areas where there are already three units of the same use within a 400m radius (typically a five-minute walk) and seeks to achieve a benchmark of 67 per cent of leisure uses in town centres being ‘quality leisure’ - excluding betting shops, amusement arcades and takeaways. Monitoring indicates that it has been highly successful in preventing new betting shops being established in areas of over-concentration, with no lost appeals and a significant reduction in the number of applications and appeals relating to gambling premises overall.  


However, Newham’s residents consistently report that prevalence of established gambling premises (and hot food takeaways) continues to be a problem. The council recognises that the policy needs to evolve to help manage the impacts of changing gambling models, such as the growth in popularity in adult gaming centres, and to help promote responsible operation of these premises where their location is otherwise acceptable. The Local Plan Refresh (Reg. 18) therefore proposes to extend the cumulative impact approach to all gambling premises, as defined by the Gambling Commission, and to require through conditions: the display of information about debt advice services and/or gambling addiction charities; and that the operator signs up to, and operates in compliance with, any scheme(s) which promotes community safety.

Under the Act, councils are required to recover the costs of the gambling licensing function, and have discretion to set fees up to specified maximum levels set for England and Wales by the Secretary of State. Fee setting is considered in more detail in the specific section later in this document.

Licensing fees should cover the costs of gambling licensing administration and the compliance/enforcement activity undertaken by a council. As with the Licensing Act 2003, councils have a range of licensing tools that can be used to address issues linked to gambling premises, specifically reviewing existing licences, imposing conditions or – in the most serious cases – revoking licences. However, there is also scope for councils to use other more appropriate powers to tackle certain types of challenges. For example, certain anti-social behaviour powers may be better suited to dealing with anti-social behaviour issues linked to gambling premises. This is considered in more detail in the subsequent section on managing individual premises and enforcement. 


Gambling businesses are required to have an operator licence issued by the Gambling Commission before they can operate in Great Britain. Operator licences can be issued for up to ten different types of gambling activity and a separate licence is needed for both remote and non-remote gambling of the same types.

An operator licence gives a general authorisation for a business to provide gambling facilities, but a business wishing to provide non-remote gambling facilities in a licensing authority area is required to apply for a premises licence that is specific to the particular premises.

Operators are required to comply with conditions attached to both their operator and individual premises licences. They are also required to adhere to the mandatory provisions in the Gambling Commission’s Social Responsibility Code of Practice and take account of the provisions in the Ordinary Code of Practice (although these are not mandatory).

The Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) were updated in April 2015, and have introduced significant new responsibilities for operators in relation to their local premises. Since April 2016, all non-remote licensees that run gambling premises have been required to assess the local risks to the licensing objectives arising from each of their premises, and have policies, procedures and control measures to mitigate them. Licensees are required to take into account the licensing authority’s statement of principles in developing their risk assessments – licensing authorities can challenge risk assessments if they feel there is evidence that local risks have not been taken into consideration (for example, if there are generic risk assessments for different premises).

Local risk assessments should also be undertaken or reviewed and if necessary updated by operators:

  • when applying for a new licence or to vary a premises licence to reflect significant changes
  • to local circumstances, including those identified in the statement of principles
  • when there are significant changes at the premise which may affect mitigation of local risks.

Operators are advised to share their risk assessments when submitting such applications.

A partnership approach to local regulation

In line with the principles of better regulation, the Gambling Commission are encouraging operators and licensing authorities to work together in partnership. This can be helpful in relation to tackling gambling related harms.  

Many sections of the industry have developed their own voluntary codes to promote ‘responsible gambling’, which local premises may also implement. GamCare also work with operators to provide certification which demonstrates the measures gambling businesses have in place to protect people from gambling-related harm. GamCare also provides training courses for industry to support staff to identify customers who may have an issue with gambling.  

Licensing authorities can work proactively with local businesses to support them with their obligations in this area, or to encourage them to adopt best in class measures, for example by making this a requirement through the statement of policy or specific premises licensing conditions.  

Additionally, a number of licensing authorities have worked with local gambling premises to develop Betwatch or other partnership / code of practice schemes. These often have a wider focus than harmful gambling – for example, they may focus on reducing any anti-social behaviour associated with local premises – and provide a useful forum for engaging with the industry and understanding any specific local work on harmful gambling. However, officers should be mindful of conflict-of-interest concerns when engaging with gambling businesses,  and should scrutinise and be transparent about who they engage with. 

Role of councillors and the licensing authority


Under the Act, the licensing authority’s responsibilities are delegated to the authority’s licensing (or regulatory) committee, which is likely to be made up of non-executive/cabinet councillors.

The licensing committee is likely to be responsible for considering and proposing the authority’s gambling policy through developing the statement of principles prior to its approval by full council, and for taking decisions on specific licence applications or issues.

However, two core functions are not delegated and remain the responsibility of the full council:

  • a resolution not to issue casino premises licences
  • adopting the licensing statement of principles.

Fee-setting is not delegated to the licensing committee by default, but a licensing authority may choose to delegate this function. Otherwise, fee-setting remains a council function and cannot be delegated to a cabinet or executive committee. As in other areas, fees should be reviewed annually.

Decision-making in respect of individual cases, whether applications for licences or relating to existing licences, may be further delegated from the licensing committee to a sub-committee, or to an officer. Officers may not, however, exercise delegated powers in the following circumstances:

  • where an application has been made for: a premises licence; a provisional statement (in relation to a premises expected to be built); a club gaming or club machine permit; or to vary an existing premises licence, and representations have been made
  • where an application has been made to transfer a licence, and a representation has been made by the Gambling Commission or a responsible authority
  • in the case of a review of an existing premises licence.

We also recommend that effort is taken to ensure that licensing committees are representative of the local communities that they serve.

Interested parties and responsible authorities Unlike the Licensing Act 2003 framework, representations may be made by or on behalf of ‘interested parties’ defined as:

  • people living sufficiently close to a premises to be likely to be affected by it
  • whose business interests may be similarly affected
  • people representing them (eg advocates, neighbours/residents /tenants associations, MPs, councillors, etc).

It is up to the licensing authority to determine whether a person is an interested party with regard to a particular premises or application, and this should be decided on a case-by-case basis. However, the licensing authority’s statement of principles should set out the principles the authority will apply in doing so. The Gambling Commission’s ‘Guidance to licensing authorities’ advises that this may include:

  • the size of premises (eg, a larger premises might be expected to affect people over a broader geographical area)
  • nature of the premises
  • distance of the premises to a person making the representation 
  • the potential impact of the premises, eg number of customers, routes likely to be taken to visit the premises
  • the circumstances of the person who lives close to the premises.

The Commission also states that licensing authorities should take a broad interpretation of business interests, to include partnerships, charities, faith groups and medical practices. In respect of gambling businesses themselves, it advises that authorities consider the size and catchment of a premises, and whether the person making the representation has business interests in the catchment area which might be affected. Representations may also be made by ‘responsible authorities’, defined under the Act as the:

  • licensing authority
  • Gambling Commission
  • police
  • fire and rescue service
  • planning authority
  • an authority with responsibility for minimising the risk of pollution to the environment or of harm to human health in the area where the premises is situated, i.e. environmental health
  • local safeguarding board
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. 

Decision making and conditions

In circumstances where the committee or subcommittee considers specific cases, it sits as a quasi-judicial body and therefore must follow the rules of natural justice – anyone affected by a decision has a right to be heard and no one should be a judge in his own cause. All decisions should be made without ‘fear or favour’, however difficult they may be.

In general, the volumes of applications and cases dealt with in respect of the Act will be significantly less than in relation to alcohol or taxi licensing. However, in broad terms, committees have similar options available to them when considering an application/issue relating to a gambling premises as they do in relation to alcohol licences and taxis:

  • to grant a licence, with or without conditions, or refuse it
  • when reviewing a licence
    • do nothing
    • introduce conditions on a premises licence
    • revoke a licence.

Licensing authorities may attach specific conditions to premises licences, in addition to the mandatory and default conditions that apply either because they are set out in the Act or in regulations made by the Secretary of State. In relation to an individual premises, they may also choose to disapply default conditions set out in regulations which would otherwise apply to all premises licences.

The Gambling Commission’s Guidance to Licensing Authorities (GLA) advises that premises licence conditions issued by authorities should be:

  • relevant to the need to make the proposed building suitable as a gambling facility
  • directly related to the premises and the type of licence applied for
  • fairly and reasonably related to the scale and type of premises
  • reasonable in all other respects.

The GLA also states that ‘decisions on conditions should be taken on a case by case basis. [Licensing authorities] must aim to permit the use of premises for gambling and so should not attach conditions that limit their use except where it is necessary in accordance with the licensing objectives, the Commission’s codes of practice and guidance, or their own policy statement. Conversely, licensing authorities should not turn down applications for premises licences where relevant objections can be dealt with through the use of conditions.’ 

Good practice on licensing conditions In any area of licensing, conditions must not:

  • exceed the council’s powers set out in the controlling legislation (‘ultra vires’)
  • be unreasonable or disproportionate (‘Wednesbury unreasonable’)
  • be beyond the applicant’s powers to comply with
  • be for an ulterior motive
  • but must be clearly stated in order that they can be properly understood to be complied with and enforced.

Both applicants seeking new licences and the holders of existing licences will have the right of appeal to the local magistrates’ or crown court if they are aggrieved by the decision of the licensing committee.

Training of councillors

No councillor should be permitted to sit on a licensing committee or sub-committee without having been formally trained. The 2017 post-legislative scrutiny report by the House of Lords Select Committee into the Licensing Act 2003 was emphatic on the need for councillors to receive appropriate levels of training before sitting as a member of a licensing committee or sub-committee.

It is important that training does not simply relate to procedures, but also covers the making of difficult and potentially controversial decisions, and the use of case study material can be helpful to illustrate this. All training should be formally recorded by the council and require a signature from the councillor.

To support councils in providing comprehensive training for licensing committee members, the LGA has developed a suite of training tools.  We have developed a free online e-learning module on licensing for all councillors to use, as well as a series of scenario-based training videos, tip-sheets and a licensing leadership essentials course for chairs and vice chairs of licensing committees. The training resources can be accessed on our website. 

In addition to in-house and LGA training, there are a number of independent training providers, including licensing bodies – the National Association of Licensing Enforcement Officers (NALEO) and the Institute of Licensing (IoL).  The LGA has also worked with the Institute of Licensing to develop a suggested training standard, which sets out what the LGA and the IoL believe to be a basic level of licensing committee member training.

Appearance of bias

While third party lobbying of elected members is legitimate and certain members may make representations to the licensing committee on behalf of ‘interested parties’, it is crucial for the licensing authority and its committee to ensure that there is neither actual nor an appearance of bias in its decision-making. It should also be remembered that concerns about political lobbying were the basis of the concerns which lead to the first Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Section 25 of the Localism Act 2011 does not prevent members from publicly expressing a view about an issue or giving the appearance of having a closed mind towards an issue on which they are to adjudicate. However it is recommended that to avoid an appearance of bias the following advice should be observed:

  • No member sitting on the licensing subcommittee can represent one of the interested parties or the applicant. If s/ he wishes to do so s/he must excuse him/herself from membership of the sub-committee which is considering the application. Case law has also established they should not be in the room for the hearing once an interest has been declared.
  • If a member who sits on the licensing sub-committee is approached by persons wishing to lobby him/her as regards the licence application then that member must politely explain that they cannot discuss the matter and refer the lobbyist to his/her ward member or the licensing officer who can explain the process of decision making. If the member who sits on the licensing subcommittee wishes to represent them then s/he will need to excuse him/herself from the licensing sub-committee.
  • Members who are part of the licensing sub-committee must avoiding expressing personal opinions prior to licensing subcommittee decision. To do so will indicate that the member has made up his/her mind before hearing all the evidence and that their decision may not be based upon the licensing objectives nor the statement of licensing principles.
  • Political group meetings should never be used to decide how any members on the licensing sub-committee should vote. The view of the Ombudsman is that using political whips in this manner may well amount to findings of maladministration. It may be advisable that the chair of the licensing sub-committee should state, during proceedings, that no member of the sub-committee is bound by any party whip.
  • Councillors must not be members of the licensing sub-committee if they are involved in campaigning on the particular application.
  • Other members (i.e. those who do not sit on the licensing sub-committee) need to be careful when discussing issues relating to matters which may come before the licensing sub-committee members as this can easily be viewed as bias/pressure and may well open that sub-committee member to accusations of such. While a full prohibition upon discussing such issues with committee members by other members may be impractical and undemocratic, local authorities are advised to produce local guidance for members on how such matters can be dealt with. Such guidance could include a definition of what is viewed as excessive, eg attempting to obtain a commitment as to how the member might vote.
  • Members must also be aware of the need to declare any pecuniary or non-pecuniary interests in matters that may come before them, whether these relate to policy issues or to specific applications.
  • Members must not pressurise licensing officers to make any particular decisions or recommendations as regards applications.
  • Behaviour is also governed by the member’s code of conduct which councillors should have regard to, and most authorities also have a member/officer protocol which governs how members and officers should interact and the differences in their roles and responsibilities.
  • Councillors should consult their monitoring officers for further advice where necessary.

The LGA has produced a model code of conduct, which includes more examples and a Q&A, that members may find helpful. 

The licensing authority statement of principles

Under section 349 of the Act, licensing authorities are required to prepare a statement of principles that they propose to apply in relation to their regulatory responsibilities in gambling. Statements of principles typically run for a period of three years. There is nothing to prevent an authority from updating its statement more frequently if it wishes to, but the three yearly cycle must still be followed.

Objective and purpose

The objective of the statement of principles is to provide a vision for the local area and a statement of intent that guides practice: licensing authorities must have regard to their statement when carrying out their licensing functions. The statement cannot create new requirements for applicants outside of the Act, and cannot override the right of any person to make an application under the Act, make representations or seek a review of a licence. However, it can invite people and operators in particular to consider local issues and set out how they can contribute towards positively addressing them. 

The updates to the licence conditions and codes of practice in 2015 have had a significant impact on  the statement of principles. The requirement for operators to prepare local risk assessments in relation to all their premises from April 2016 means that licensing authorities should now set out their expectations of operators’ risk assessments, ideally in their statements. This  provides a real opportunity for councils to reflect local needs and issues in their gambling policies, in a similar way to licensing policy statements prepared under the Licensing Act 2003.  

Most licensing authorities will not experience the same volume of applications in gambling as they do in other areas of licensing, however concern about gambling related-harms generates extremely strong feeling. While licensing authorities may have limited powers to refuse new applications, developing detailed and robust statements of principles that reflect local circumstances will enable them to shape local gambling regulation as much as possible. A statement that reflects local circumstances and risks can help operators to better understand and proactively mitigate the risks to the licensing objectives. 

Conversely, as in other areas of licensing, if an authority’s statement of principles does not cover a specific issue, it will be in a significantly weaker position if it is ever challenged on a decision on that issue. It is always better to pre-empt legal challenge through a comprehensive statement of principles, and setting out a position in the statement should encourage an applicant to work with the council and community from the start to develop an application that will add to the local area, rather than detract from it.  

Councils should note that the Gambling Act Review contains a commitment to consult on introducing cumulative impact assessments into gambling licensing legislation. Whilst the LGA would have preferred to abolish ‘the aim to permit’ altogether, the introduction of cumulative impact assessments will be a welcome development that the LGA has long called for. Cumulative impact assessments are used to regulate alcohol premises under the Licensing Act 2003 and are a tool which give councils greater scope to refuse an application for an alcohol licence in areas where there are concerns that the density of premises in a particular area is having a negative impact on the licensing objectives. 

The white paper states councils will be required to identify high risk zones in their gambling licensing policy and local area profile, and that gambling applicants will need to prove they will not add to the risk of harms in a local area. A cumulative impact assessment will also create a presumption against granting new licences in areas where there is already a saturation of gambling premises. These changes will require amendments to primary legislation, and the Government is committed to doing this when parliamentary time allows. 



In developing their statements, the Act requires licensing authorities to consult with:

  • local police
  • those representing the interests of gambling businesses in their localities
  • people likely to be affected by it (or those who represent them).

Authorities may also wish to consult with:

  • organisations including faith groups, voluntary and community organisations working with children and young people, organisations working with people affected by gambling related harms, such as third sector organisations or lived experience groups, and advocacy organisations (such as the Citizen's Advice Bureau and trade unions) 
  • local public health team and mental health teams 
  • local businesses
  • other tiers of local government (where they exist)
  • responsible authorities.

It is good practice to clarify in the consultation which aspects of the current statement you are proposing to change.

Cabinet Office guidance on public consultations state that the time required for a public consultation ‘will depend on the nature and impact of the proposal (for example, the diversity of interested parties or the complexity of the issue, or even external events), and might typically vary between two and 12 weeks’.

Licensing authorities should look at the views submitted by consultees and consider carefully whether they should be taken into account in finalising their statements. A licensing authority should always be able to give reasons for the decisions it has made following consultation. However, they should ensure that they only consider matters within the scope of the Guidance, Act and Codes of Practice. Even if there is a large response regarding a certain issue, an authority may be unable to deal with the issue under the Gambling Act, although there may be other options for addressing issues raised (eg planning).

Given the requirement to undertake a consultation when the statement of principles is amended, authorities may wish to consider separating their statements into distinct segments (possibly by sector). This would ensure that they need only consult on the section they propose to amend, rather than on the full statement, if changes need to be made.

Licensing authorities are required to publish their statements four weeks prior to them coming into effect. Licensing authorities are required to publish a notice advertising the publication of the statement on or before it comes into effect. 

Key issues for the statement of principles

Legal requirements

Licensing authorities are required to include within their statements a number of points set out in statutory regulations:

  • setting out the three licensing objectives that the statement is intended to uphold
  • a commitment to upholding the statutory aim to permit gambling
  • a description of the geographical area to which the statement applies (typically a plan of the area)
  • a list of those consulted in preparing the statement
  • the principles the licensing authority will apply in designating a competent body to advise it about the protection of children from harm and, if already determined, who this body is. In most places, this will be the local safeguarding children board, or following changes brought in under the Children and Social Work Act 2017, the new local multiagency safeguarding arrangement (see further in the report).
  • the principles the licensing authority will apply in determining whether someone is an interested party for the purposes of premises licences or applications for them
  • the principles to be applied in relation to exchanging information with the Gambling Commission or other bodies with whom licensing authorities are authorised to share information under the Act
  • the principles to be applied in exercising inspection functions and instigating criminal proceedings.

If the licensing authority has agreed a ‘no casino’ resolution, this should be included within the statement, alongside details of how (i.e. by full council) and when the decision was reached. Each licensing authority should publish a separate statement of principles, even where joint arrangements might exist between a number of local authorities.

Local area profiles

The guidance for licensing authorities recommends that, like operators, licensing authorities complete and map their own assessment of local risks and concerns by developing local area profiles to help shape their statements. Although there is no mandatory requirement to do this, the LGA encourages all its members to do so as a matter of best practice. In simple terms, the objective of the profiles is to set out what your area is like, what risks this might pose to the licensing objectives, and what the implications of this are for the licensing authority and operators.

Licensing authorities are advised to keep their local area profiles separate to their statements, to enable the profiles to be updated without the need to re-consult on amending the full statement of principles. However, the implications of the profiles for their regulatory approaches should be set out in the statement.

The local area profile should identify different parts of the local area where there may be greater or specific risks of gambling related harm, whether because of: the people likely to be in that area (for example, where there is a treatment centre or hostel); the other types of businesses in the area (for example, in an area with a vibrant night time economy, or where there are already multiple gambling premises); or because of the characteristics of an area (for example, if there are pre-existing issues with anti-social behaviour or crime). Crucially, local councillors know and understand their areas as well as anyone, and are well-placed to contribute to the development of local area profiles.

Authorities can draw on some of the existing research highlighted in the LGA’s guidance on taking a whole council approach to tackling gambling related harms to identify groups with higher levels of vulnerabilities due to their personal circumstances. These include:

  • Young people  
  • Unemployed and constrained economic circumstance
  • Area deprivation
  • Homeless  
  • Mental ill health  
  • Substance abuse/misuse
  • Personality traits/cognitive distortions
  • People experiencing gambling harms who are seeking treatment  

This can help identify additional measures or protections that may need to be applied in those areas. For example, Leeds City Council’s statement of policy describes research undertaken on behalf of the authority into gambling related harm by Leeds Beckett University in 2016 and identifies those persons who may have increased vulnerability to gambling harm. It goes on to provide examples of measures that could be offered by applicants to mitigate harm, including measures such as reduced opening hours, training staff in gambling harm prevention, and outlining the amount and content of gambling harms support advertising that should be in the premises, including advertising of local treatment support.

Licensing authorities may draw on GamCare data about the number of national helpline calls received from a specific area, or the numbers of people treated in certain areas (this information could be accessed from the national treatment framework, which is hosted by the University of Manchester, but would not include data on NHS services). However, as support services may be accessed anonymously these are unlikely to be fully comprehensive: the number of people seeking treatment locally may reflect awareness of its availability and the current map of local providers rather than the actual level of local need, and support services are poorly accessed at the moment, with people waiting, on average, for around ten years before seeking support. Licensing authorities may have access to other data which may suggest heightened vulnerability to gambling harms. For example, the council could have data which shows levels of deprivation in an area, the amount of looked after children, children with lower education attainment, youth offences, and alcohol related harm (such as numbers of people drinking at harmful levels, numbers of alcohol premises, levels of alcohol related crime, anti-social behaviour and alcohol related admissions to hospital).

Some licensing authorities have used mapping tools to help inform their local area profiles. For example, Westminster Council has produced an interactive map of the council’s Local Area Profile for gambling which is outlined in the case study below. 

One issue to consider is whether there is a need to differentiate different parts of the licensing authority area in drawing up local area profiles, depending on the size and nature of the area.

A smaller authority may take the view that there are no reasons to distinguish one part of the borough from any other. In contrast, larger areas may wish to differentiate the area into segments or zones with different characteristics and risks, enabling them to outline different expectations for applications or operators based in each. For example, a larger licensing authority that has a specific geographic area with a higher density or specific type of gambling premises may wish to differentiate this from the rest of the borough. Similarly, smaller authorities may also find this approach suitable, for example if there is a busier town centre and surrounding rural area with a very different profile.

Case study: Statement of principles for gambling in Westminster

The Fairer Westminster Strategy pledged to “adopt a gambling policy to protect vulnerable residents and visitors from gambling harm”. Consequently, Westminster’s 2022-2025 statement of principles for gambling provides greater clarity, detail and scope on what the council will consider when determining applications for new gambling premises and varying existing premises under the Act. 


The new policy builds on the requirements for gambling operators to fully assess the associated risk of their gambling operation, which includes the premises, the gambling activity and its location on the licensing objectives under the Act. It includes new approaches that use the findings from the Local Area Profile for gambling risk in Westminster. Areas that the local area profile identifies as being at greatest risk of gambling harms have been designated as Gambling Vulnerability Zones. In these areas, new applications will receive a greater degree of scrutiny to ensure they are aligned with the principles of the Gambling Act and the council’s statement of policy. It also outlines a number of steps applicants will be expected to take to assess risks within their application for a licence, permit or other permission and mitigate against any harmful impacts. Existing operators will also be expected to review their gambling risk assessments and ensure that they have taken account of the Local Area Profile and the new policy to review their gambling risk assessments and ensure that they have taken account of the Local Area Profile and the new policy. 

Expectations of operators

Local area profiles will help the authority to develop its expectations of existing operators and new applicants in the licensing authority area. The statement of principles is the key tool for setting this out clearly, so that operators are clear what is expected of them.

Risk assessments

As an example, the statement of principles is an opportunity for a licensing authority to set out its expectations of the local risk assessments that operators must now undertake in respect of all gambling premises. Where authorities do not set out any expectations, it is more difficult for them to raise objections where they are not satisfied with the assessments that operators subsequently prepare.

Operators are required to take into account the licensing authority’s statement of principles in developing their risk assessments, so authorities should therefore specifically outline the issues they expects operators to cover within their risk assessments. Operators are not automatically required to share their risk assessments with licensing authorities except when they are applying for a new premises licence or to vary an existing one. However, the Gambling Commission is advising operators to do so. Authorities may use the statement of principles to clarify whether or not and how regularly they expect to receive a copy of each premises’ risk assessment, and any expectations around risk assessments being kept on the premises to which they relate, rather than at head office.

Authorities will wish to ensure that the risk assessment covers the following broad headings:

  • reference to any specific local risks (linked to the local area profile)
  • how the operator proposes to mitigate these risks
  • how the operator will monitor specific risks.

The statement should also set out if the licensing authority has any specific expectations of risk assessments for different types of premises. This will be linked to broader expectations of operators (linked to activity and location), as set out below. 

Applications and variations

The statement should also set out the licensing authority’s expectations of new applications and the issues the authority will take into account in considering applications for new licences, permits or variations in different sectors or parts of the borough, depending on the risks associated with each.

This should include the information that the authority would expected to see as part of any such application, for example minimum standards for a plan and layout of the premises. It could also include a list of required information about staffing arrangements in the premises, or the security features that will be put in place.

Depending on the local area profile, authorities may wish to invite information at application stage about premises’ intended participation in local business schemes (eg, if there is a BID) or other specific schemes such as Betwatch, if they are in place locally.

Similarly, authorities could invite applicants to outline specifically how individual premises will be implementing the various voluntary codes of practice that different sectors have developed, as well as the measures mandated in the licensing conditions and codes of practice.

The key point is that the statement is an opportunity to clarify your expectations of businesses in relation to new applications, reducing the input and resources required at the time an application is submitted.

Sector/area specific expectations

The statement should be used to set out the licensing authority’s expectations of operators of different types of premises, or (if relevant) of premises in different parts of the licensing authority area. If there are particular risks associated with certain premises due to the facilities offered or their location, it is legitimate for the statement to set out upfront how it expects operators and premises to address this.

Local licensing guidance – South Leeds alcohol premises

South Leeds is an area of deprivation, with increasing numbers of outlets to buy alcohol, but a decline in the number of pubs.  NHS Leeds (as was) and the local community officers had increasing concerns about the availability of alcohol in the area, along with an increase in street drinking, and generalized disorder.  The publication of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment highlighted a disparity in the life expectancy of residents in the area in comparison with other areas in Leeds and the national average. Alcohol misuse is known to be a possible contributory factor for a lowered life expectancy. 

The council’s South Leeds area team formed the multi-agency South Leeds Alcohol Group with the objective of reducing the health harms in the area which were linked with alcohol. The group consisted of the police, health, community safety, treatment services, planning, environmental health and licensing. The group met monthly to look at a number of approaches.  The availability of alcohol was seen as key, but there were not enough on-licensed premises to warrant a cumulative impact policy. The group looked at alternative options and looked towards licensing as a solution. 

In 2012, changes to statutory guidance on the Licensing Act enabled councils to require operators to have regard for the local area when making their application. The group therefore developed Local Licensing Guidance specifically for postcode areas of LS10 and LS11 (also known as Inner South Leeds), which has a population of approximately 82,000. The guidance has helped premises ensure that they are able to identify and include appropriate control measures in their applications. Of the five applications received since the development of the guidance that didn’t include appropriate control measures, the Health and the Licensing Authority have negotiated with four premises who subsequently agreed to include additional control measures and a further application was withdrawn prior to hearing. The control measures included matters such as the positioning of alcohol within the store and agreement to display health information.

Similar approaches in gambling could include:

  • Under-age sales 
    • If a premises is based near a school or college, the measures might be required to manage a higher risk of attempted under-age sales.
    • If the premises is a FEC or UFEC, expectations for how the premises will manage the risk of children and young people understanding different types of machine and/or seeking to access them.
  • Security issues
    • Staffing requirements, if the premises is open late, or located in an area with a busy night time economy or record of crime/anti-social behaviour.
    • Whether alcohol is permitted, eg in a premises on a seaside pier.
    • Requirement for CCTV, maglocks, door chimes, alarms, etc if there is a history of security incidents in the premises.
  • Signage
    • For example, language requirements if there is a diverse local community where English may not be the first language.
    • Clear identification of different types of machine (eg gaming or skill machines) and/or prizes in premises where these may vary.
  • Staff issues
    • Training requirements on particular issues relevant to the premises or area, eg) on different types of machine in a FEC/UFEC.

Another option is operator/premises participation in local schemes or industry best practice schemes (eg Safebet Alliance) designed to promote best practice and tackle any issues. In the alcohol licensed trade, schemes such as PubWatch, Best Bar None, etc are common practice. This is far less common in relation to gambling, but may also have a role to play in some areas. Authorities could consider this as a default approach in specific areas, or as a first stage enforcement approach in areas where there are particular issues.

In relation to both existing operators and new applicants, the authority may wish to use the statement to outline a set of model licence conditions that operators could adopt if the local area profiles and risk assessments indicate it is necessary. The Gambling Commission’s ‘Guidance to licensing authorities’ includes a helpful set of sample premises licence conditions arranged by security; anti-social behaviour; underage controls; player protection controls. 

Enforcement approach

Licensing authorities are required to set out in their statement the ‘principles that they will apply in exercising their inspection function and instigating criminal proceedings’ (that is, their approach to enforcement). As a minimum, the statement should outline the authority’s intended approach in relation to:

  • information sharing and targeting activity
  • inspection activity and visits
  • dealing with non-compliance by premises
  • tackling illegal gambling.

It should be noted that in setting out its approach to inspection and enforcement, the authority will also be providing an outline of the basis for its fee structure. As in other areas of regulatory services, in developing their enforcement strategy, authorities should adopt a ‘better regulation’ approach that recognises the requirements of the statutory regulator’s code and applies the principles of proportionality and transparency, particularly in terms of consultation and engagement with regulated businesses.

The Gambling Commission is keen for licensing authorities to foster a partnership approach to local regulation, working jointly with local businesses to tackle issues linked to gambling premises. A partnership approach could assist with resolving issues linked to local betting shops. This could include ward councillors; council licensing teams and community safety teams; police licensing and community officers; betting shop managers and betting shop area managers, as well as town centre managers, representatives of the wider business community and other stakeholders listed above.

However, officers should be mindful of conflict-of-interest concerns when engaging with gambling businesses,  and should scrutinise and be transparent about who they engage with.

Some councils have primary authority agreements with major bookmakers and gambling trade associations covering the issue of age verification. As with any other primary authority agreement, licensing authorities should therefore have regard to the plan agreed between the company and primary authority in developing their own programmes of activity and inspection. However, the primary authority relationship provides a useful mechanism to feedback general concerns about a particular operator, as the primary authority will have regular contact at senior levels with the operator: authorities should seek to reflect this in their enforcement approach.

Information sharing

To help target their enforcement activity and resources, authorities could use their statements to request that operators/premises share relevant information with them, for example about test purchasing results (subject to the terms of primary authority agreements) or about incidents in premises, which managers are likely to be required to report to head office. A licensing authority might seek information about numbers of self-excluded gamblers to help it develop its understanding about the risk of gambling related harms in its area.

This type of information would help the authority to get a clearer picture of which premises may be experiencing issues, meaning that they can structure their inspection and enforcement activity appropriately.

Inspection activity and visits

The statement should set out the activity the authority intends to undertake as part of its standard (that is, pre-planned) inspection activity, and the issues it will be looking at when it does visit. This will ensure that operators know what to expect in terms of the frequency and nature of licensing authority visits. The Gambling Commission, working with the Leicester, Rutland and Leicestershire Licensing Forum and Leicestershire Local Economic Partnership, has developed a range of templates to help authorities when they visit gambling premises. The Commission is encouraging authorities to make use of the templates.

The issues that licensing authorities may cover during their visits include:

  • details of training policies and training undertaken by staff
  • records of refusals to serve /admit on age grounds (subject to the terms of any primary authority agreements)
  • records of any relevant incidents in or outside the premises, eg anti-social behaviour
  • approach to managing self-exclusion and numbers of people currently self-excluded
  • involvement/impact of any work in local schemes or partnership working with other local businesses
  • reviewing paperwork relating to the purchase of games from licensed manufacturers
  • interviews with staff members • confirming that appropriate signage is in place.

Dealing with non-compliance/risks to the licensing objectives

The statement should outline the steps the authority will take where there are reports of non-compliance, or there have been serious incidents linked to a premises. Authorities should make clear when and how they would expect to work with operators to try to resolve or address problems, and when an issue is so serious that it would expect to move immediately to initiate some form of enforcement action.

Authorities may wish to specifically cover:

  • Dealing with test purchase failures (subject to the terms of any primary authority agreements). For example, the authority might require a premises to undertake certain measures to address this and undergo a follow-up test within a specified amount of time. A second failure would be expected to lead to enforcement action.
  • Dealing with complaints from residents or neighbours. For example, an authority might have an established process to implement when it receives complaints about specific premises.
  • Dealing with anti-social behaviour issues. For example, if an authority becomes aware that a premises is becoming associated with anti-social behaviour issues, it might in the first instance seek to work with the premises to address these through voluntary measures. If this is not successful in resolving the issues, the authority might then consider introducing conditions on the premises licence, or using other tools as appropriate.

The section on enforcement should set out the tools that licensing authorities will consider using to address issues that may be associated with gambling premises, often linked to alcohol and/or anti-social behaviour. Licensing authorities have the option under the Act to review, vary or impose conditions on a premises licence, but in practice these might not be the most effective tools to use to tackle problems linked to anti-social behaviour. Instead, tools specifically designed to reduce anti-social behaviour, such as dispersal powers, community protection notices or new public space protection orders, may have more of an impact. In very, very rare instances, where a premises is being used or likely to be used to commit nuisance or disorder and working with the operator had failed to address this, a closure notice may also be served.

Tackling illegal gambling

The enforcement approach could also set out the authority’s approach to illegal gambling, including how the authority intends to monitor the risk of illegal gambling or respond to any information linked to this risk. 

Licensing fees

Unlike fees for alcohol licences under the 2003 Licensing Act, licensing authorities have some discretion to set premises licence fees for gambling establishments. Councils in England and Wales have devolved powers to set fees for premises licence applications and annual fees up to a prescribed maximum fee set out in the table below. Licensing authorities can delegate responsibility for setting fees to their licensing committee or officers.

As with other licensing fees, licensing authorities should set their fees on the basis of cost recovery, so that the income received from fees is ‘as nearly as possible’ equal to the cost to the authority of administering the Act. Licensing fees should be reviewed annually to ensure that income from licensing fees does not exceed the costs of administering the Act in any single financial year, and income from licensing fees should effectively be ring-fenced to support councils’ gambling work.

Licensing authorities are expected to be transparent about the assumptions that they make in setting fees, and will need to have a clear understanding of the costs they incur in carrying out duties under the Act in order to set fees accurately.

Licensing authorities can set fees in relation to the different types of gambling premises licence, and within each class, may set:

  • an application fee
  • an annual fee; as the first annual fee is payable 30 days after a licence is issued, councils have discretion to set a lower first annual fee to reflect that checks will recently have been made as part of the application process
  • a first/annual fee for a premises licence subject to a seasonal condition
  • • fees to:
    • notify a change of circumstance
    • apply to vary a licence
    • apply to transfer a licence
    • apply for a copy of a licence
    • apply for reinstatement of a licence
    • apply for a provisional statement.

In relation to applications, any costs associated with the licensing authority of receiving, considering and determining the application may be included, including:

  • staff costs
  • overheads, IT, legal and other central support costs
  • initial inspections
  • Licensing Committee costs
  • the cost of hearings and appeals.

In relation to annual fees, fees should cover:

  • regulatory compliance and enforcement costs for the forthcoming year (eg inspection, holding reviews and enforcement activity); this would include any action in relation to illegal gambling, and could also include the cost of providing councillor training on gambling licensing
  • the costs associated with processing the annual fee (eg updating computer systems, register of gambling premises licences and processing fee)
  • annualised periodic costs incurred by the licensing authority in respect of its three year licensing policy statements.

Licensing authorities that have set their fees close to or at the maximum levels prescribed by government should be able to demonstrate why their fees are at higher levels than those set by other authorities. This may be because local costs (eg, salaries) are higher, or because they are undertaking a wider range of activities in relation to gambling premises, which can broadly be assessed from licensing authority returns to the Gambling Commission. This could include an extensive under-age sales programme, or work to tackle illegal gambling.

Again, as with other licensing fees, we are aware that operators and their trade associations maintain a close eye on fees, and will not be afraid to challenge licensing authorities they believe are over-inflating fees and/or not using the income solely for the purpose of overseeing gambling regulation.

The LGA has published general guidance on fee setting, which licensing authorities may find helpful in determining licensing fees for gambling premises.

Table of maximum fees for gambling premises
Types of licensed premises Maximum fee level (MFL):  Application for premises licence MFL: Annual fee MFL: Application to vary a licence MFL: Application to transfer a licence MFL: Application for reinstatement of a licence MFL: Application for provisional statement
Regional casino 15000 15000 7500 6500 6500 15000
Large casino 10000 10000 5000 2150 2150 10000
Small casino 8000 5000 4000 1800 1800 8000
Converted casino   3000 2000 1350 1350  
Bingo 3500 1000 1750 1200 1200 3500
Adult gaming centre 2000 1000 1000 1200 1200 2000
Betting premises (track) 2500 1000 1250 950 950 2500
Family entertainment 2000 750 1000 950 950 2000
Betting premises (other) 3000 600 1500 1200 1200 3000

Source: The Gambling (Premises Licence Fees) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 SI No 479/2007

Protecting vulnerable people

Protecting children and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling is one of the three licensing objectives. Ensuring that this objective is upheld is one of the core responsibilities licensing authorities must meet.

Children and young people

It is an offence under the Act to invite, cause or permit a child (anyone aged under-16) or young person (anyone who is not a child but is aged under-18) to gamble. There are certain exceptions to this; for example participation in a lottery or football pools, or use of a category D gaming machine. It is also an offence to permit a child or young person to enter a casino, betting premises (other than a racecourse or track) or adult gaming centre. Again, there are exceptions to this, for example children and young people may enter family entertainment centres providing that they cannot access category C machines, and similarly can enter bingo establishments.

Operator responsibilities

The Gambling Commission’s codes of practice deal extensively with the issue of access to gambling by children and young people. The 2015 changes to the LCCP significantly strengthened the responsibilities that are binding on operators in this area. Specifically, operators and premises are required to:

  • Have policies and procedures designed to prevent underage gambling, and monitor the effectiveness of them.
  • Ensure that their policies and procedures take account of the structure and layout of their premises. This is intended to ensure that issues such as the line of sight between counters and entrances in premises are taken into account. Test purchasing results have indicated that where the line of sight to entrances or gambling facilities is restricted, it is harder to perform successfully. This might particularly be the case in premises with limited staff numbers.
  • Take all reasonable steps to ensure staff understand their responsibilities to prevent under-age gambling, including the legal prohibitions on children and young people entering gambling premises.
  • Operate a Think 21 policy, whereby staff check the age of customers who appear to be under 21.

Larger operators and casinos are now required to conduct underage test purchasing or take part in a programme of test purchasing, and provide the results of these exercises to the Gambling Commission. Many of these operators will have a primary authority agreement in place with a council covering age related sales. Smaller operators are advised to monitor the effectiveness of their policies and procedures for preventing underage gambling, but are not specifically required to undertake test purchasing.

Role of licensing authorities

Licensing authorities also have an important role to play in ensuring that operators uphold the licensing objective in relation to children and young people. The Act requires that authorities designate in writing a body to advise them on the protection of children from harm, and the principles for choosing this body must be set out in the authority’s statement of principles. These principles are likely to include that the body should cover the whole licensing authority area, have sufficient resources, and be accountable to a democratically elected organisation, rather than a particular group. The Gambling Commission’s ‘Guidance to licensing authorities’ states that ‘such a body may, but will not necessarily, be the local safeguarding children board’.

It is worth noting that following changes brought in under the Children and Social Work Act 2017, new local multi-agency safeguarding arrangements will replace local safeguarding children boards.

Whoever the licensing authority nominates, the important issue is that it has ongoing engagement with that body in relation to gambling and wider licensing issues, rather than simply nominate them.

Licensing authorities can also use their statements of principles to set out their expectations of operators and individual premises in relation to preventing children and young people as well as other vulnerable people from gambling. This might include specific expectations of premises in the vicinity of schools or sixth form colleges or addiction treatment centres. For example, a council may make specific recommendations relating to line of sight or door chimes in premises where there is a particular risk of children or young people seeking access to gambling.

Thought should also be given to safeguarding outside of premises, for example there could be expectations that unaccompanied children should not be left outside.

Safeguarding tools for operators in Sheffield

Sheffield City Council, like many local authorities, has concerns about the clustering of gambling premises, in particular where these are located in places that might attract children and vulnerable people – near schools, leisure centres or substance misuse treatment services. As part of the council’s licensing project, the Safeguarding Children’s Board has developed a number of tools to support partners, including the trade, to understand their safeguarding responsibilities, and signpost to agencies that can offer support where concerns are raised.

Working in partnership with licensees and their staff, the council have produced an advice leaflet and a downloadable risk assessment tool for operators. Engaging with local forums like Licencewatch and neighbourhood community groups meant that the council was able to use existing relationships with the trade to raise the profile of safeguarding in relation to betting shops and encourage operators to undertake a safeguarding risk assessment and know how to report safeguarding concerns. The risk assessment involves operators demonstrating how they have considered the risks in the local context and how they have mitigated these, for example implementing policies around supervision, recording and reporting issues, or discouraging adults leaving children outside premises.

Alongside this, the council is also developing training around safeguarding vulnerable people and the impacts of gambling related harms on communities and families, which they hope will supplement existing training betting shop staff already receive around self-exclusion and age verification. As well as supporting the council and other key partners to identify safeguarding issues, the new tools have also been well received by businesses, many of whom have welcomed the opportunity to play a role in the community and make sure that people experience gambling related harms, or those at risk, get the help they need.

Councils should also consider how under age testing programmes can help ensure the licensing objectives are met. Many councils operate their own underage test purchasing through trading standards and/or licensing teams, particularly in response to complaints or intelligence. 

Larger operators are responsible for conducting/taking part in under-age testing and sharing these results Gambling regulation Councillor handbook 25 with the Gambling Commission. Although these results are not automatically provided to licensing authorities, licensing authorities may choose to ask for copies of test purchasing results as part of their local risk assessment expectations and use this evidence to help target their own activity in this area (subject to the terms of any primary authority agreements which have agreed a formal plan in respect of underage sales and testing).

In 2019 a review of pubs in England and Wales showed 84 per cent of them failed to prevent under 18-year-olds from playing on fruit machines. Staff in licensed premises are expected to stop children playing on the machines and there should be clear signage indicating the age restriction. The Gambling Act review pledges to give councils increased powers in relation to gambling machines in alcohol licensed premises. Subject to consultation by the Gambling Commission on any changes to its code of practice, the additional powers for councils could include the ability to cancel the entitlement to additional gaming machines, vary the permit to change the number of machines allowed, or even remove the automatic entitlement to site gaming machines where there is a failure to prevent underage gambling. The changes to the code of practice for clubs and pubs would also be reflected in Gambling Commission guidance to licensing authorities.

If there is evidence of ongoing failures by premises to prevent under-age gambling, licensing authorities will wish to consider whether it is appropriate to review the relevant licences and potentially include conditions aimed at addressing the issue. 

New conditions for operators failing second underage test

A number of independent gambling operators had new conditions attached to their premises licences to strengthen underage gambling controls.

Further to the programme of test purchasing conducted in 2014 by local authorities in partnership with the Gambling Commission, East Lindsey District Council, Brighton and Hove City Council and Hastings Borough Council reviewed premises licences where operators failed to challenge an underage test purchaser for a second time.

Two adult gaming centre operators, a family entertainment centre and a betting shop were subject to premises licence reviews. These operators had submitted improvement plans to their authorities after failing a first test purchase exercise, but the latest re-tests demonstrated that weaknesses in controls had not been remedied.

Examples of the conditions now attached to premises licences include:

  • a requirement for the licensee to have a Think 21 or Think 25 policy
  • a requirement for regular test purchasing to be undertaken, to ensure the licensee monitors the effectiveness of their controls
  • the use of magnetic locks to restrict access to premises
  • the use of an infra-red beam system to alert staff to the presence of customers in age-restricted areas
  • barriers to reduce the risk of children crossing from family entertainment centre premises into adult gaming centre premises
  • re-positioning category D gaming machines away from entrances to adult gaming centre premises, to reduce the attraction of children to those areas
  • induction and refresher training for staff.

Operators cooperated with the local authorities during the review processes, and some offered up further measures to strengthen their controls in addition to the formal licence conditions, such as:

  • improving staff supervision of customers by moving age-restricted gaming machines to areas in front of manned areas or a staff counter
  • assigning a member of staff to have specific duties for supervising the age-restricted area.

In addition to managing the risk of under-age sales, councils could also consider how they can work with premises that may be able to identify children or young people who are truanting or in relation to whom there are safeguarding issues. As societal awareness of child sexual exploitation increases, it may be the case that premises that children and young people legitimately visit have a role to play in understanding and potentially highlighting the risk if they observe any warning signs. Councils and the police are developing training for other types of licensees (eg taxi drivers, takeaway owners) in relation to child sexual exploitation; there may be value in ensuring this type of material is available to staff working in family entertainment centres, for example. Again, the statement of principles can be used to set out any expectations in this area.

Illegal gambling

Licensing authorities are entitled to use income from licensing fees to tackle instances of illegal gambling in their areas. Illegal gambling occurs where gambling takes place without the necessary licences or permits in place, or in a premises that isn’t entitled to host a particular type of gambling. The typical types of illegal gambling that licensing authorities are likely to encounter locally are illegal poker clubs and illegally supplied or illegally sited gaming machines.


Poker can be played legally in casinos, and can also be played in non-domestic/residential venues in certain specified circumstances, where:

  • In the case of alcohol licensed premises, no participation fees are levied and stakes and prizes do not exceed those set in statutory regulations.
  • In the case of clubs, participation fees, stakes and prizes do not exceed those set in statutory regulations.
  • In the case of members’ clubs with club gaming permits, participation fees do not exceed those set in statutory regulations; monies are not deducted from stakes or prizes; and clubs are not run wholly or mainly for the purpose of gaming. The Commission advises councils to scrutinise applications for club gaming permits carefully, warning that experience has shown that clubs will go to ‘great lengths to disguise the true nature of their activities’.
  • Poker takes place on a non-commercial basis that is not for private profit or gain, for example a poker night held to raise money for charity. As a broad guide, where poker taking place outside of a casino involves a ‘rake’ (i.e. a commission fee taken by the person operating the game which exceeds statutory fees), it is possible that the game may be operating illegally.

The Gambling Commission’s Guidance to Licensing Authorities on illegal gambling urges councils not to discount taking action in relation to illegal poker clubs on the basis that they have not received complaints against them. As in other areas of regulatory services, it may be the case that wilful non-compliance in relation to gambling controls is evidence of wider disregard for the law and in some cases serious criminal behaviour. 

Reigate Social Club and its withdrawal of a club premises certificate and cancellation of a club gaming permit after an investigation into alleged illegal poker

A joint visit was undertaken to a club where illegal poker was allegedly taking place, involving the police, the local authority and the Gambling Commission. The visit identified customers who were not members, poker only being played on the premises and rakes being taken by the house. The local authority decided to revoke the club premises certificate, which also allowed the club gaming permit to be revoked and the premises were closed. 

The first action was therefore to cancel the club-gaming permit. The second action was to withdraw the club premises certificate under section 90 of the Licensing Act 2003. Although there is a right of appeal under s181 and schedule 5 part 2 paragraphs 14 and 15 of the Licensing Act 2003, there is no provision for the certificate to be effectively re-instated pending the appeal. The decision therefore takes effect once the notice is given to the club.

The consequence of that is that paragraph 17(2)(c) of schedule 12 to the Gambling Act comes into effect and this provides that because the club gaming permit was granted under paragraph 10 (i.e. the fast track procedure), it “shall lapse if the club premises certificate on which the application relied ceases to have effect.”

Two months later those involved in the previous club tried to apply for new permission under a new name to reopen the club but the local authority refused the application on the basis of their previous behaviour.

Gaming machines

There are controls relating to both the supply and provision of gaming machines:

  • manufacturers and suppliers of gaming machines must be licensed by the Gambling Commission
  • a premises wishing to site a gaming machine typically requires a licence or permit, either:
    • an operator licence from the Commission and a premises licence from the licensing authority
    • an alcohol premises licence from the licensing authority
    • a gaming machine permit from the licensing authority.

Gaming machines may be illegally manufactured or supplied in order to avoid tax (machine games duty) and licence fees, and may not have the technical standards required by the Gambling Commission. The Gambling Commission advises operators and other venues entitled to provide gaming machines to ensure that they only obtain machines from Commission-licensed manufacturers: this might be something that licensing authorities wish to confirm as part of their compliance work in this area.

While the Gambling Commission is responsible for compliance issues relating to the manufacture and supply of machines, licensing authorities are responsible for compliance and enforcement where gaming machines are illegally sited, ie the required licences or permits authorising the machines (or number of them) are not in place. Typically, this issue has tended to occur in relation to pubs, clubs, social clubs and takeaways.

Illegal machines operation in the London Borough of Enfield

In June 2016 Enfield’s Licensing Enforcement Team coordinated and led a multiagency, intelligence-led operation designed to address the concerns of residents, businesses and the police about the unlawful activities of a minority of businesses engaging in various types of environmental crime and criminal behaviour. Operation Bandit involved local police, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers and Enfield Council enforcement officers and involved two separate enforcement operations one in June and one in December 2016.

The operation was very successful, as a result:

  • Fifteen premises were visited and 29 illegal gaming machines were discovered operating within these businesses. All illegal machines were seized by the police and total of £248 was recovered from these machines.
  • All premises received a warning, with one premises undergoing a review of its licence, which was subsequently revoked. Costs of the operation were paid by a premises.
  • HMRC will be applying fines to the premises owners for non-payment of duty.

Intelligence and compliance action

Licensing authorities can work with the Gambling Commission in relation to illegal gambling, to draw on their experience and share intelligence. The Commission operates ‘local authority compliance events’ through which it will alert licensing authorities to intelligence it has received about allegations or evidence of illegal gambling affecting their areas.

The Commission and licensing authorities might also receive or uncover evidence or concerns about illegal gambling on, for example, online poker forums, from the police, and from the gambling industry. The Gambling Commission have developed a range of template letters for dealing with the types of illegal gambling that licensing authorities might experience, which can be accessed on their website.

Lewisham – illegal gaming machines in takeaways

In January 2012, the Commission received information suggesting there may be gaming machines in a number of takeaways in the Lewisham area, without the required licence and/or permit. The Commission forwarded the information to the London Borough of Lewisham under the local authority compliance event (LACE) process. On receipt of the intelligence, the LA took the following action:

  • The six venues mentioned were visited. Each was found to have an unauthorised gaming machine.
  • Suitable advice was given and all the machines were deactivated on the understanding they will be removed.
  • Each was written to and given a formal warning that further offences will result in legal proceedings.
  • The six venues were revisited by the enforcement team within fourteen days to ensure compliance.

This is a reoccurring problem. All takeaways in Lewisham are visited on a regular basis, and every owner has previously been verbally advised concerning the legal position. Initially all unauthorised machines were removed. In the event of further offences of this nature the licensing manager has agreed that the offender will be prosecuted and the matter extensively publicised at a local level. 

Sector specific issues


Unlike other types of gambling premises, the number of casinos is strictly limited and if a licensing authority does not already have an existing casino or is not a permitted area eligible to launch a competition for a casino licence, it is not currently possible to issue a casino licence for that area.

When the Act was introduced in 2005, 186 casino premises licences issued under previous legislation ‘were converted’ to the new regime. Converted licences can only be used in the licensing authority area in which it was granted, or its successor authority, but there is scope for these premises to relocate. There are fifty three licensing authority areas that were designated in 1969 as ‘permitted areas’ entitled to have a casino.

Additionally, fifteen English and Welsh licensing authority areas are permitted to issue a casino premises licence under the Act. These areas were selected following open competition; casinos authorised under this route can only be built at the location specified in the application. The Act specifies two different types of casino licence; for a large or small casino.

As part of its statement of principles, licensing authorities are entitled to pass a ‘no casino resolution’ or to state that it would welcome a casino if the opportunity to bid for a premises licence were to become available. As outlined above, a ‘no casino’ resolution must be agreed by the council, rather than delegated to the licensing committee. The Gambling Commission advises that as the overall number and locations of casinos may be varied at some point in the future, it is still appropriate for licensing authorities to consider and determine their approach to casinos. However, when considering any additional work beyond this determination, councils should recognise that the likelihood and timescale of any change to existing numbers and permitted areas is unclear.

Alcohol licensed premises

The Act allows alcohol licensed premises to offer certain types of gambling activity, within certain parameters. In particular, gambling must remain ancillary to the main purpose of the premises, and the exemptions and entitlements are reliant on the premises holding a valid alcohol licence. Licensing authorities should be alert to the possibility of someone seeking an alcohol licence solely for the benefit of the gambling entitlements. The following policy objectives summarise the key elements that underpin the approach to controlling where gaming machines may be played:

  • with very few low risk exceptions, nonremote gambling should be confined to dedicated gambling premises
  • the distinctions between different types of licensed gambling premises are maintained
  • gambling activities are supervised appropriately
  • within casino, bingo and betting premises, gaming machines are only made available in combination with the named non-remote activity of the operating licence.

Alcohol licence holders are automatically entitled to make available two gaming machines (category C or D) for use in alcohol licensed premises. To do so, the person holding the licence must notify the licensing authority of their intention to make gaming machines available for use, and pay the prescribed fee. If the person ceases to be the holder of the relevant licence for the premises, the entitlement ceases, and the new holder would subsequently need to apply.

Licensing authorities can make an order that removes the automatic entitlement to two gaming machines under certain circumstances. However, they may also replace the entitlement to two gaming machines by issuing licensed premises gaming machine permits for any number of C or D gaming machines in licence premises.

Where licensing authorities have concerns regarding pubs and the number of machine permits they seek to obtain, their licensing statement of principles can be used to make clear their expectations of alcohol licensed premises and their adherence to the:

One recent issue in alcohol licensed premises relates to the possibility of bingo in pubs. The Greene King pub chain applied to the Gambling Commission for a bingo operating licences, but was refused a licence. Greene King appealed the refusal but the Upper Tier Tribunal ruled in early 2016 that the Gambling Commission had acted within its powers when it refused to grant Greene King a bingo operating licence to provide commercial bingo in its pubs.

Although this case appears now appears to be resolved, licensing authorities are advised to notify the Gambling Commission if any existing bingo operator licence holder or pub company seek to operate commercial bingo in a pub, or in the event of any other licence applications outside of usual practice.

Family entertainment centres and unlicensed family entertainment centres.

Family entertainment centres are premises (other than an adult gaming centre) wholly or mainly used for making gaming machines available for use. These can be either licensed or unlicensed.

An unlicensed family entertainment centre is subject to limited regulation under a uFEC permit, but is only entitled to make Category D machines available. The entity making machines available on the premises (the arcade operator) does not need a Commission operating licence. However the entity supplying machines to the business (the machine supplier) must be licensed by the Commission.

A licensed family entertainment centre is entitled to make both Category C and D machines available. It is subject to similar controls to many other gambling businesses – the premises need a full premises licence from the licensing authority and the entity making machines available on the premises requires a Commission operating licence, as does the supplier of the machines.

Only premises that are wholly or mainly used for making gaming machines available may hold an uFEC gaming machine permit or an FEC premises licence. Both a licensed FEC and an uFEC are classified as ‘premises’. Therefore, it is generally not permissible for such premises to correspond to an entire shopping centre, airport, motorway service station or similar: typically, the machines should be in a designated, enclosed area. The Gambling Commission has issued guidance to licensing authorities outlining its view that it is ‘highly undesirable for FEC/uFECs to be granted for entire venues.’ These uFEC permits have to be renewed every 10 years, with a 34 Gambling regulation Councillor handbook rolling programme of renewal starting from 2017, which provides an ideal opportunity for licensing authorities to ensure that the premises is still eligible for such a permit.

Licensing authorities must be aware of the distinction between machines that are defined as ‘skill with prize’ (SWP) machines and gaming machines. SWP machines must not have any mechanism that determines the outcome of the game: the game must operate in a consistent manner, and must be genuinely achievable, providing time and opportunity to win using skill, and not be influenced by chance. A game that contains an element of chance is a gaming machine.

SWPs are not caught as gaming machines and therefore do not count towards the B3 machine allowance in a family entertainment centre, or an alcohol licensed premises, members club, adult gaming centres or bingo premises. They may however be liable for Machine Games Duty and operators should confirm with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if they need to be registered.

Some operators have deployed machines as ostensibly SWPs, when in fact they contain elements of chance or other features which would make them properly gaming machines; or indeed contain a function that allows them to be switched between a “skill” game and a gaming machine. In such cases, these machines should be treated as gaming machines. 

Checklist for councillors in England and Wales

This list is intended to help you focus on the key issues your authority should consider in developing its approach to local gambling regulation.

  • Has the authority mapped local gambling provision/premises in the local area?
  • Is the authority aware of any specific gambling related risks in the local area? How might these be mitigated?
  • Has your authority used this to develop a local area profile to support your licensing statement of principles?
  • Has the authority set out an approach to preventing gambling by children and young people?
  • What is the authority’s approach to tackling illegal gambling?
  • Has the authority engaged with local public health, addiction and treatment charities, lived experience groups, homeless charities etc about gambling related harms in the locality? 
  • Has the authority clearly set out its expectations of operator local risk assessments?
  • Has the authority clearly set out its expectations of operators in relation to children and young people, including in those sectors where children and young people might legitimately frequent premises?
  • Has the authority developed and shared with operators its approach to compliance and enforcement?
  • Has your authority undertaken any underage sales or broader compliance activity over the past year?
  • How might partnership working with local operators support the authority's approach to local gambling regulation (whilst being mindful of conflict of interest concerns). 
  • How might tools and powers outside the Gambling Act support the authority’s approach to gambling regulation?
  • Can the authority demonstrate how it has reached the fee levels it has set?
  • Has the authority ensured that licensing and planning policies share a common approach to new premises for gambling?
  • Does the council recognise gambling related harms as an issue, and to what extent is it taking a whole council approach to tackling these harms? 


Term Description
2003 Act The Licensing Act 2003, covering alcohol, late night refreshment and regulated entertainment.
The Act The Gambling Act 2005
Betting Betting is defined as making or accepting a bet on the outcome of a race, competition or other event or process or on the outcome of anything occurring or not occurring or on whether anything is or is not true. It is irrelevant if the event has already happened or not and likewise whether one person knows the outcome or not. (Spread betting is not included within this definition).
Bingo There are essentially two types of bingo: cash bingo, where the stakes paid make up the cash prizes that can be won and prize bingo, where various forms of prizes can be won, not directly related to the stakes paid.
Book Running a ‘book’ is the act of quoting odds and accepting bets on an event, hence the term ‘Bookmaker’.
Casino games A game of chance, which is not equal chance gaming. Casino games includes Roulette and black jack, etc.
Child For the purposes of the Gambling Act 2005, anyone under the age of 16
Coin pusher or penny falls machine A machine of the kind which is neither a money prize machine nor a nonmoney prize machine.
Crane grab machine A non-money prize machine in respect of which every prize which can be won consists of an individual physical object (such as a stuffed toy) won by a person’s success in manipulating a device forming part of the machine so as to separate, and keep separate, one or more physical objects from a group of such objects.
Default condition These are prescribed in regulations and will be attached to all classes of premises licence, unless excluded by the licensing authority.
Equal chance gaming Gaming which does not involve playing or staking against a bank.
Fixed odds betting If a gambler is able to establish what the return on a bet will be when it is placed, (and the activity is not ‘gaming’ see below), then it is likely to be betting at fixed odds
Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) FOBTs are a type of gaming machine which generally appear in licensed bookmakers. FOBTs have ‘touch-screen’ displays and look similar to quiz machines familiar in pubs and clubs. They normally offer a number of games, roulette being the most popular
Gaming Gaming can be defined as ‘the playing of a game of chance for winnings in money or monies worth, whether any person playing the game is at risk of losing any money or monies worth or not’.
Gaming machine Any type of machine allowing any sort of gambling activity including betting on virtual events but not including home computers even though users can access online gaming websites.
Licensing authority A district, borough or unitary authority responsible for licensing gambling and other activities.
Licensing objectives

The licensing objectives are three principal goals which form the basis of the Gambling Act. Stakeholders who have an interest in the Act need to try and promote these objectives. The licensing objectives are:

  • preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime
  • ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
  • protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
Lottery A lottery generally refers to schemes under which prizes are distributed by chance among entrants who have given some form of value for their chance to take part. A lottery is defined as either a simple lottery or a complex lottery.
Mandatory condition A condition which will be set by the Secretary of State (some are set out in the Act and some will be prescribed by regulations) which will be automatically attached to a specific type of premises licence. The licensing authority will have no discretion to alter or remove these conditions.
Money prize machine A machine in respect of which every prize which can be won as a result of using the machine is a money prize.
Non-money prize machine

A machine in respect of which every prize which can be won as a result of using the machine is a non-money prize. The winner of the prize is determined by:

(i) the position in which the coin or token comes to rest after it has been inserted into the machine, together with the position of other coins or tokens which have previously been inserted into the machine to pay a charge for use, or

(ii) if the insertion of a single coin to pay the charge for use enables the person using the machine to release one or more tokens within the machine, the position in which such tokens come to rest after being released, together with the position of other tokens which have previously been so released.

Non-remote gambling Gambling that takes place in a physical premises.
Remote gambling Gambling which people participate in via remote communications, eg telephone, internet etc.
Young person For the purposes of the Gambling Act 2005, anyone who is not a child but is aged under 18.