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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 07/03/2006
Gambling Commission - Gambling Consultation on Draft Guidance for Implementing the Act 2005



APPENDIX F
Waverley Borough Council

EXECUTIVE – 7TH MARCH 2006

Title:
GAMBLING COMMISSION - GAMBLING CONSULTATION ON DRAFT
GUIDANCE FOR IMPLEMENTING THE ACT 2005
[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and purpose:

This report covers suggested representations made to the Gambling Commission on its recently issued draft Guidance to Councils on how they should exercise their powers and duties under the Gambling Act 2005 following the decision by the Licensing and Regulatory Committee at its meeting on 14th February 2006 and reported to the Council on 21st February.

There could be significant staffing resource implications, and possible financial implications if the centrally prescribed fees do not cover the Council's costs in administering the new Act.

Environmental implications:

There are no implications immediately for the physical environment, but it may be that if there is a proposal to build or convert premises into a casino in the Borough, this may have implications.

Social/community implications:

There are considerable social and community implications in this legislation. This has proved contentious, but the Government has said that it should be possible to provide a simpler and up to date legislative framework which will enable adults to choose to gamble as a recreational activity. However, there is a broad range of views in the community that the outcome of the legislation could be damaging to vulnerable people and possibly to children.

E-Government implications:

The Council would aim to include both guidance and the possibility of applying for licences or permits on its website. The Commission also suggested it would collate information from Councils electronically.

Resource and legal implications:

The resource implications are explained in the report, but, as with the introduction of the 2003 Licensing Act for liquor licensing, these are difficult to quantify at present.

Introduction

1. The Licensing and Regulatory Committee received reports on proposed gambling legislation on 1st August and 1st December 2005. The Government has now produced the first section of the draft Guidance which particularly deals with the Council's duty as Licensing Authority for gambling to produce a Statement of Licensing Policy.

2. The legislation follows a broadly similar framework to the Licensing Act 2003, but there are significant differences which are attached at Annexe 1 in a table extracted from the consultation document.

Particular Issues for Consultation

3. The Gambling Commission has asked Councils to consider in particular the following four issues:-

(a) does the guidance cover all the issues that Councils anticipated and needed?

(b) does it contain the right level of detail?

(c) is it easy to find information in the Guidance? and

(d) is the proposal to allow each section of the Guidance to be freestanding, which would enable it to be updated without affecting other sections, a desirable form?

4. Officers have analysed the guidance and propose that the following points could be made under these headings:-

(a) Does it cover all issues?

The guidance is broadly based on the framework which is familiar under the Licensing Act 2003. It is clearly set out and the tables showing the differences to the 2003 Act and examples such as delegation are very helpful. However, some of the confusions which have caused difficulties with liquor licensing are continued. These include the position of the Council as Licensing Authority, timescales, definitions, the lack of a role of town and parish councils and funding. There are very general statements in the Guidance that funding has already been provided to Councils in the Government's grant settlement for preparatory work to produce the Statement of Gambling Policy and set up systems. It is not apparent that Waverley has received any additional grant to allow it to fund these activities.

(b) Level of Detail in the Guidance

Again, there is a range of issues, some of which are promised to be supplied later, including training, enforcement, judgements to be made by the Council in the consultation process, transitional issues and the position on casinos.

(c) Ease of Finding Information

The Guidance is clearly set out and there are clear tables, but an index would be very helpful both for officers and Councillors. If it could be provided electronically, this too would be helpful.

(d) Does each Section Stand on its Own?

It is difficult to make this judgement until the whole of the document is produced, but it seems that the section issued so far which concentrates on producing Statements of Gambling Policy does stand on its own.


(e) Call for Proposals for Casinos

The Casino Advisory Panel set up by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has invited proposals from Councils for new casinos. The Government is initially proposing to permit on regional casino, eight large casinos and eight small. The Licensing and Regulatory Committee's initial view was not to submit a proposal, but there will be a detailed report to the next meeting.

Conclusions

5. The timetable of a closing date of 17th March for representatives has given a reasonable time for Councils to respond to this Guidance, but it is hoped that the Commission and Government will take on board the serious issues and points raised by Licensing Authorities who have experience now of a similar regime with the Licensing Act. This has placed, at times, very heavy peaks of workload on Councils, resulting in unacceptable workloads and pressures and has also given applicants some difficulties in completing forms and knowing when their applications would be determined.

Implications for Waverley's Licensing Service

6. Until the whole of the Guidance is produced, it is difficult to assess these implications. However, it does appear that should the Council be minded not to welcome a casino within the Borough, then the workload for gambling premises licences would be restricted to existing betting shops and bingo halls. It seems that the process for giving permits for gaming machines in liquor licensed premises is largely administrative and could be carried out without major difficulties for applicants. However, there will be a very large volume of several hundred permits for the whole Borough which will pose problems in processing these. If full guidance is issued late, this will compound the workload pressures.

Resource Implications

7. It is difficult, until the whole of the Guidance is produced, to assess the workload implications and the financial implications. Again, as explained above, until the fee structure has been settled, it will not be possible to assess whether all of Waverley's costs will be recovered. The Committee at its last meeting asked the Executive to note this uncertainty for the 2006/2007 Revenue Estimates, and the Committee reiterated this problem and the difficulties it caused in planning for a smooth introduction of the new system.

Recommendation

The Executive is recommended to

1. note the position on workload and resources on the Gambling Act 2005;and

2. pass any views on the invitation for proposals for a casino in the borough to the Licensing and Regulatory Committee.

Background Papers (CEx)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.


CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Robin Pellow Telephone: 01483 523222

E-mail: rpellow@waverley.gov.uk


comms/exec/2005-06/298