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Local authorities and the Gambling Commission

Source: Public Sector Executive Nov/Dec 2012

Rob Burkitt from the Gambling Commission’s Local Authority Liaison Unit discusses its relationship with councils.

The Gambling Commission wishes to respond to the article that appeared in the September/October 2012 edition of PSE from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.

The article suggested that the Commission is in some way ‘hampering’ local authorities in performing their duties. Quite the reverse is the case...

In fact the Gambling Commission has established very effective communications with local authorities both collectively and individually and has established a dedicated Local Authority Liaison Unit to improve our engagement even further. This provides specialised technical expertise and advice that to help local authorities use the full range of powers that they possess to regulate gambling locally.

Last month’s article suggested that in providing advice to local authorities on primary gambling activity “the Commission itself will place the LA at significant risk of a [legal] challenge”. In fact, the Commission was recently compelled to write to local authorities precisely because there was evidence that erroneous advice issued by campaign groups could leave local authorities at risk of litigation. It is part of the Commission’s statutory role in keeping gambling fair and safe to provide guidance and advice to local authorities. The Commission will continue to provide information to local authorities objectively and as we have explained previously to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, we would advise all licensing authorities to take suitable action where a business is not a genuine betting business yet seeks to make B2 gaming machines available.

The article also contained misleading statements about some of the more technical aspects relating to primary gambling activity and betting shops. Again we wish to set the record straight. The Commission has been working with local authorities to ensure that betting shops continue to offer sufficient facilities for betting. In 2008 the Commission introduced additional licence requirements for all licensed betting operators and we have worked closely with a number of local authorities that have considered relevant licence applications, to help establish a common approach.

Since that time a small number of betting operators caused us to question their adherence to primary gambling activity requirements. Through both compliance and, where necessary, enforcement activity we are working together with local authorities to ensure only genuine betting businesses offer gaming machines.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is correct in noting that a decision by a licensing committee not to grant a licence is potentially subject to review through the courts. However, they are mistaken in claiming that the risk of challenge is increased as a result of the Commission’s advice. Rather, by ensuring that we offer clear and timely advice, both to local authorities and operators, we help ensure that the correct decisions are made in the first place and are therefore best placed to stand the test of legal scrutiny.

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