I am delighted that I have secured Leeds United a new premises licence for the Josh Warrington against Lee Selby IBF world championship featherweight boxing bout at Elland Road Stadium on 19 May.

Josh is a lifelong Leeds United fan and for him to get his tilt at this world belt on the pitch at Elland Road in May is fantastic for him and the City.

We had to work quickly and engage the relevant authorities and local Ward Councillors in pre-application meetings.

It has been really encouraging to see how the Police, Local Authority and all those charged with maintaining safety at the venue have worked with us to turn this round so quickly to allow the fight to take place.

The licence will also accommodate Leeds United’s exciting plans for some major music events to take place at the ground.

Everyone at Woods Whur wishes Josh all the best in what will be a real battle to take the belt.


As those of you who have been reading my commentary on the sentencing guidelines since their introduction will know, there has been a significant rise in the fines handed down by the Courts since the guidelines came in two years ago.

In effect, the guidelines set a tariff for the Courts to follow when dealing with offenders under health and safety, corporate manslaughter and food safety legislation.

Recently released figures show that, in the period 2015/2016 before the guidelines came into effect, total fines imposed were £38.8 million.

Contrasting this with the first full year when the guidelines were in operation, a rise in fines to £69.9 million occurred.

This gives an average fine per offence of £126,000. In order to put that into context, when I started practising in this area, the average fine for a health and safety offence nationally ranged between £5,000 and £7,000.

Whether you operate in the private or public sector, whether you are a small or a large organisation and whether you are prosecuted because someone is injured or killed or where just a risk exists and no injury has been caused, the fine levels are significant.

I know I am in danger of repeating myself, but you cannot prepare and protect yourself enough in terms of health and safety as well as food safety.

Take expert advice, review your documentation, police your systems and record the results. The best way to prevent having to pay a significant fine is ensuring that you never have an accident or risk in the first place. There is no fool-proof solution, but robust systems, equally robustly policed are your best defence.

Woods Whur have now been working with CRS for a year and we have seen some fantastic results. We decided to branch into Civil Debt Recovery with CRS when we realised the synergies of our businesses and the clients we already had in common. Taking over the legal function for them was the natural next step and it is already bearing dividends, with some resounding successes. I was amazed by how many client cross-overs we already had when I started to look into this opportunity and met with Jon O’Malley, the managing director of the company. Jon says: “We have been delighted since we have moved the legal function over to Woods Whur. We feel the attention to service levels and customer care that they have given us have moved our business on to another level. The Woods Whur team are integrated into our systems now to provide a seamless service. Our business is all about client care, and we have seen that is mirrored with Woods Whur. The best testimonial to the CRS/Woods Whur relationship is the positive feedback we have had from our clients regarding the improved swiftness and professionalism in handling of claims”.

The work that CRS covers broadly falls into three categories.


Civil Recovery is an alternative to criminal prosecution, where the matter is reported to the police, Serious Fraud Office or other Government body for investigation and possible prosecution. Civil Recovery is the legal means by which a business may attempt to reclaim losses and costs directly from a wrongdoer without going down a potentially lengthy criminal route.

From shoplifting or damage to property, to employee embezzlement and online fraud, such actions have a direct cost and – negative – impact on the profitability and growth of any organisation.

In addition to the actual value of goods stolen or property damaged, there are unavoidable and legitimate additional costs that have to be met by the business owner – from redeployment of staff and unscheduled time spent on administration to replacing stock and loss of income during repairs.

CRS understand that every business wants to tackle the often tricky subject of Civil Recovery in different ways, setting their own parameters and policy rules for pursuing claims against wrongdoers.

As such they have developed a unique framework of civil recovery solutions that can be seamlessly implemented by our clients to best meet their current requirements and which can easily be adapted in the future, as necessary – moving away from other, ‘one-size-fits-all’ processes that are prevalent in the industry.

Constantly pushing technological boundaries – CRS are the first company to develop a free-to-use case submission app and we’re in the business of helping your business. Take a look at the website to get more information about the app or contact Jon to arrange for a demo http://www.ukcrs.com

We have found that these solutions are particularly useful for operators in the leisure and the gambling sectors.


Any business owner wants to ensure that the best people are in the best jobs, so selecting, retaining and developing the right candidates is a priority in today’s competitive employment marketplace.

Employee screening can cover off everything from identity, academic qualification and employment history verification, through to criminal record searches, gap in employment analysis and adverse media impact. This is particularly useful for the leisure and gambling industries.

Pre-employment screening not only allows businesses to form a time-effective and accurate picture of potential employees when making their recruitment choices, but can also significantly reduce the burden placed on internal resources.

These are checks employers should be undertaking to mitigate risks of employing the wrong people, or, in the worst case scenario, people who don’t have the right to work in the UK at all. We have seen serious cases where the sanctions for employing illegal workers have led to the potential loss of the business due to the level of the fines imposed, and the very real threat of the loss of a premises licence.

Screening Checks Include:

Identity Verification

Are they who they say they are?

Passport and Document Verification/Right to work

Are travel documents and work visas current?

Employment History Verification

Where have they worked and why did they leave?

Criminal Record Search

Do they have any previous or unspent convictions?

Academic /Qualification Verification

Are they qualified to work for you?

Adverse Financial Checks

Does their personal, financial situation pose a risk?

Using the most up-to-date databases and industry-leading tools and methodologies, CRS tailor each candidate search according to the specific requirements of the client: Government departments and healthcare organisations may well set more detailed and different criteria for employee searches than businesses in the retail and logistics sectors, and the leisure and gambling sectors a different set again.

Once the criteria have been set, the team compiles a comprehensive report on each prospective employee, which includes all the must-know information, as well as other areas that the employer might want to consider when making their final selection, e.g. Adverse Financial Checks (motivation for taking the job), additional Directorships held (possible conflicts of interest) and Right To Work / International Screening (for candidates from other countries).

This is a cost-effective Employee Screening and Professional Vetting service and can help your business select and recruit the most suitable personnel to deliver the most value to your organisation. Testimonials from satisfied clients can be seen on the website and Jon O’Malley would be delighted to receive any enquiry for more information and guidance in this area. He can talk through systems, either on the phone or arrange for a convenient time to meet and demonstrate the range of solutions available.

He can be contacted at CRS on the following email address jon.omalley@civilrecoverysolutions.com

Online Fraud Detection

The approach to Online Fraud Detection uses a mix of state-of-the-art technology and software with tried and tested detective work.

The in-house detection team works in collaboration with online auction and trading site owners, police officers and ex-offenders, drawing from years of experience at both ends of the spectrum in this field of online fraud.

A full on-site consultation service is offered to clients, to analyse their current online fraud concerns and implement preventative solutions across the whole supply chain, to help minimise the costs associated with such activity in the future.

Jon would be delighted to discuss these Online Fraud Detection services in more detail, and can be contacted on the email address above.

These are significant potentially impactful issues for leisure and gambling operators and we have already seen success in these sectors.

In 2016, we held our first Gambling Conference at the iconic Hippodrome Casino, at which we updated delegates on ever-changing legislation and guidance. The event was full and over 120 people attended and contributed both by sharing ideas and questioning those who gave presentations. My opening presentation was called “Changing Times” and referred to 2015 as being a significant year for enforcement action and compliance. I referred to public statements of 13 September 2013, 28 October 2013 and 25 June 2014, as well as further public statements in 2015 and 2016. Those public statements all related to operators not complying with the relevant legislation and guidance, particularly on money laundering and “knowing their customers”. Anna Mathias developed this discussion further with her presentation “Update on Current Developments” and we also heard from Rob Birkett of the Gambling Commission, Kerry Simpkin of Westminster City Council and Sheila Roberts of the London Borough of Newham.

Our second conference will take place at the same venue on 8 May 2018, and our intention is to bring delegates up to date with relevant case studies and analysis of recent guidance. It seems to me to be far more helpful to give a presentation which highlights practical examples and real life scenarios rather than debate any interpretation or wording of recent guidance. We always try, in advising clients in gambling cases, to give pro-active and practical advice, so that the client is put in the best position to make an informed decision on their situation. This applies whether the client is looking to make a new application or requiring advice on a regulatory situation.

It seems clear from the latest William Hill case that compliance with the anti-money laundering regulations, which includes a requirement for the gambling industry to understand their customers and their customers’ financial position, is still the most significant topic for the gambling industry. William Hill were fined a minimum of £6.2million for “systematic social responsibility and money laundering failures”. The recent Gambling Commission Bulletin confirms the seriousness of this matter, saying: “systemic senior management failure to protect customers and prevent money laundering will result in William Hill Group paying a penalty package of at least £6.2 million”.

This is very similar to the case studies we looked at which had been dealt with between 2013 and 2016 and raises significant questions as to the extent to which certain operators have moved on and learned to understand their responsibilities.

Neil McArthur, who is the Executive Director of the Gambling Commission, was quoted in the Gambling Commission Bulletin as confirming: “we will use the full range of our enforcement powers to make gambling fairer and safer…gambling businesses have a responsibility to ensure that they keep crime out of gambling and tackle problem gambling – and as part of that they must be constantly curious about where the money they are taking is coming from”.

The Bulletin gives several examples of William Hill’s failures, including the following:

  • A customer was allowed to deposit £654,000 over nine months without source of funds ever being checked and the customer lived in rented accommodation and was working with a salary of approximately £30,000 per annum;
  • A further customer was allowed to deposit £541,000 over 14 months after the operator made the assumption that a customer’s potential income could be £365,000 per annum based on a verbal conversation.  

We are very much looking forward to welcoming people to our conference on 8 May. We expect to have a wide range of attendees, including those from the industry and local authorities, as well as many operators from the lotteries sector. There will be an opportunity to question those who are giving presentations and to socialise during a coffee and tea break.

I am absolutely delighted to confirm that Erica Young will be attending and speaking on behalf of the Gambling Commission and Philip Kolvin, QC will also be attending to deliver a keynote speech.

If anyone would like further information on the conference or would like to book a place (no charge) then please contact sarah@woodswhur.co.uk.

The event did fill up very quickly last time and the number of spaces is restricted given the size of the conference room.

The advertising regulator in Great Britain has announced new standards for gambling advertisements after a broad government consultation on the health risks associated with the gambling industry. The new standards will restrict adverts that create what the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) consider to convey an “inappropriate sense of urgency” – such as those that include phrases like Bet Now! to push offers during live events and betting in play.

They will also endeavour to curb what they have called the “trivialisation of gambling”, for example by encouraging repetitive play. One of the other areas to come under the microscope is advertising which gives what the regulator deems to be an irresponsible perception of the risks involved in gambling.

In this week’s announcement, the CAP said the new measures will aim to provide greater detail on problem gambling behaviours that should not be portrayed – even indirectly – in advertising, and will strive to prevent “undue emphasis on money motives for gambling”.

These changes will come into effect on 2 April and will be taken into account when the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) – the regulator that enforces the code – makes decisions on what adverts are and are not appropriate to broadcast and display.

The CAP said on Wednesday that, whilst problem gambling rates have generally remained relatively stable since the Gambling Act of 2005 came into force, there is evidence that suggests that certain claims, imagery or approaches portrayed in advertising might unduly influence people to gamble irresponsibly.

“We won’t tolerate gambling ads that exploit people’s vulnerabilities or play fast and loose with eye-catching free bet and bonus offers,” said Shahriar Coupal, the CAP director.

“Our new guidance takes account of the best available evidence to strengthen the protections already in place, ensuring that gambling is presented responsibly, minimising the potential for harm,” he added.

The advertising industry has welcomed the news. “The new guidelines on responsibility and problem gambling are an essential and welcome addition to the UK advertising codes for gambling,” said Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association.

“Our industry recognises the gambling sector is one which requires close, consistent and effective monitoring by our own regulatory bodies, as well as concerted effort through public education campaigns that use the ability of advertising to affect positive social change.”

The majority of complaints that the ASA receives about gambling advertisements are about the requirement for consumers to make a deposit to access their “free bets/bonus”, or the number of times they must then wager their “free bet” and deposit money before they are allowed to withdraw any winnings.

The new guidelines will also make it clear that “money back” offers must be in cash and not bonuses, that “risk free” offers must incur no loss to the consumer and that, when it comes to “matched bets”, any stake limitation should be treated as a significant condition and stated upfront.

Responding to this CAP announcement on tougher standards for gambling advertising, Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“Councils have previously called for greater restrictions on gambling advertising and we are pleased to see the steps taken by the Committees of Advertising Practice to address this. Urgent or time limited offers encouraging people to bet immediately, and misleading descriptions such as ‘risk free’, can be particularly harmful for problem gamblers, so it’s right that they should be stopped. However, there must still be consideration of whether more curbs are needed alongside this.

“The LGA has been working closely with its members to help strengthen local gambling regulation, and it’s vital that this isn’t undermined by misleading or excessive levels of gambling advertising.

“We need to ensure that people, and particularly our children and young people, are kept safe and protected from the problems gambling can cause. Problem gambling is a major concern for councils which can cause greater personal harm. It can lead to spiralling debt, deteriorating mental health and wellbeing, and a toll on society – and taxpayers – through crime and disorder, family breakdown and homelessness.”

The rules are the first of a number of activities planned for 2018 in an effort to raise public awareness of the risks associated with gambling. The CAP said that later in the year it would publish further guidance specifically focusing on the protection of children and young people.

The timing of the announcement came as GVC, the online gambling firm behind Foxy Bingo, was fined £350,000 for “repeatedly misleading consumers” with offers of free bonuses, on the same day that regulators announced a crackdown on gambling adverts.

In October last year, regulators including the Gambling Commission, the ASA, the CAP and the Remote Gambling Association wrote to 450 operators of gambling sites urging them to remove what they called “unacceptable” adverts likely to appeal to children.

It will be interesting to see how these new powers are used and what impact they will have on the gambling sector. It will also be informative to see if there will be a direct result in the reduction of problem gambling. There will surely be an impact on “bet in play” adverts. This could be the end of Ray Winstone’s floating head telling us to bet NOW!


You may consider this subject to be trivial, irrelevant or not worthy of consideration – or perhaps all three!

However, a recent case against the discount store, Pound Stretcher, might force you to take a different view about keeping store rooms and other areas uncluttered, walkways unimpeded and other exits free to use. After an unannounced visit by local authority officers at one of its stores in Swindon, a number of issues were identified in relation to chaotic arrangements and grossly overstocked storerooms. The investigating authority found aisles and walkways, as well as fire exits, blocked, and staff not trained to the appropriate standards. As is typical in local authority investigations commenced by one local council, their findings and potential concerns were circulated nationally. In this case, other interventions followed, with further unannounced visits carried out by local authorities in Berkshire and East Sussex, where similar issues were discovered. All three cases led to prosecutions.

All three sets of proceedings were dealt in December of last year and the company was fined over a £1,000,000 in total for the offences. Quite tellingly in the sentencing Judge’s remarks was the observation that to “blame the local management is not only deeply unattractive…but quite unfair”.

Whilst the size of Pound Stretcher undoubtedly affected the size of the fine, it is worthy of note that such a significant penalty was imposed by the Court, regardless of the facts that no accident had occurred and neither had any harm had been caused to anyone.

I will leave it to you to assess how the Courts would have dealt with the situation, should have there been a fire or other accident.

Whilst you may have considered, when you started to read this, the tidiness of your back-of-house areas, including stockroom or cellar, to be incidental to your operation (and, let’s be honest a bit of a distraction), I would like to hope that the case of Pound Stretcher reinforces the need for your premises to be kept in good order, tidy and free from obstructions if you want to avoid what is a eye-watering financial penalty for a state of affairs which can all too easily occur in any premises.

The Gambling Commission (“GC”) has been busy in the last month or two in the lotteries sector, reminding society lottery operators and External Lottery Managers (“ELM”) of what it expects to see in terms of transparency and reinforcing its message that lotteries must be the preserve of good causes, and not be run for commercial gain. It has also issued some advice on the latest new trend in the lottery market – enabling players to sign up and play via SMS.

The lottery sector is evolving and diversifying all the time and, perhaps as an inevitable consequence of this, the products on offer may stray into realms which the GC considers to be of higher risk than traditional lotteries or raffles, and also less easily distinguishable from other types of gambling activity.

From 4 April 2018 all lotteries will have to make it clear to all players, before they buy a ticket, in exactly whose lottery they will be participating in, that is to say, exactly which society or charity the “good causes element” of their ticket money will be going to. This new Social Responsibility Provision is aimed at lotteries that are promoted under one “umbrella” brand. Perhaps more importantly, another new Social Responsibility Provision that will come into force on the same day will require societies to publish the percentage of lottery ticket monies applied directly to the good cause in the previous year. This needs to be done either through the society’s lottery page on its website, in its Annual Report or via any other means that are reasonable and proportionate, depending on the size and scale of the organisation.

This requirement to disclose percentage of actual charitable spend has given rise to concern for some. There are fears that it might lead to certain elements of the press, for example, drawing unfair and misleading comparisons between charities. My advice throughout has been that the requirement to publish the percentage does not preclude publishing accompanying information, such as the total amounts raised and applied to the good cause since the lottery scheme’s inception and how long the lottery has been operated for, for instance.

These changes result from a consultation on fairness and openness in lotteries conducted by the GC between 20 July and 30 September last year, and the GC has continued its drive for transparency, issuing a warning in December to all lottery operators following an adverse ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) on 22 November, which arose from complaints about how The Health Lottery advertised some of its prizes.

The offending advertisement appeared on Facebook. It read:

You know what they say: five chances to win is better than one, that’s why we run five weekly draws! What’s more, each draw has a jackpot of up to £100k – that means that there is a potential half a million pounds up for grabs week in week out… Up to £500k can be won every week. That’s 5 draws per week each with up to £100k jackpot Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday… Still only £1! That’s half the price of Lotto! Play now #EverybodyWins.

The complainants, aware that the jackpot won was usually significantly less than £100,000, questioned whether the statements about a jackpot of up to £100,000 and total prize pot of £500,000 per week were misleading. The Health Lottery argued that the purpose of the advertisement was to highlight the fact that they operate five draws per week, each with a top prize of £100,000, making it possible for members of the public to win up to £500,000 in total. They insisted that, based on the normal volume of ticket sales, top prizes of £100,000 were a realistic expectation. However, the ASA noted the prize limits in the Gambling Act (“GA2005”), which currently restrict the top prize in a Large Society Lottery to £25,000 or, if more, to 10% of ticket monies. Given that ticket monies in any particular Large Society Lottery draw are limited to £4m, this means that the absolute maximum theoretical prize that may be won in any Large Society Lottery is £400,000.

The Health Lottery stressed that it had discussed the wording of its advertising with the GC, with a view to striking the appropriate balance between the highest top prize of £400,000 if there was a large number of ticket sales, and stating the minimum top prize of £25,000. It said that there had been 264 jackpot winners since The Health Lottery’s inception in 2011, of which 61% (181) had won a jackpot of £100,000 and 71%, £50,000 or more. It also pointed out that its method for calculating prizes is set out in its terms and conditions which, in turn, had been approved by the GC.

All of this notwithstanding, the ASA found that the advertisement was, indeed, misleading. Although there had been winners of £100,000 jackpots in the past, the possibility of winning £500,000 in a week by winning the jackpot in five consecutive daily draws had only existed since February 2015, when the scheme involving five weekly draws was introduced. Since then, no player had won a £100,000 jackpot. Accordingly, although the figures given in the advertisement were qualified by the words “up to”, the ASA held that they no longer represented a realistic amount that was likely to be won as a jackpot in any particular draw, given the 10% rule in GA2005.

The ASA therefore ordered The Health Lottery to withdraw the advertisement in its current form and instructed them not to exaggerate the likely winnings available. The GC has now passed on that warning to other lottery operators, saying that any information published about prizes must be presented in a clear, transparent and unambiguous way so that consumers are entirely clear about the prizes on offer and that, in particular, advertisements must not mislead by exaggeration. The GC advice, with a link to the ASA findings, may be viewed here: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/news-action-and-statistics/news/2018/Is-the-advertising-for-your-lottery-misleading.aspx

The GC has also taken the opportunity to remind the lottery industry about lotteries being confined to good causes, rather than being a commercial opportunity. Last week, it issued guidance, both on societies running lotteries on behalf of good causes, and on the limited ways in which commercial private sector businesses may be involved in fundraising, either by promoting their own lotteries or by supporting lotteries promoted by charities and other good causes.

Societies can run lotteries to raise funds for other good causes, provided that their aims and objectives allow them to do so. I have advised in a number of cases where the currently prevailing aims and objectives did not permit this, but we were able to achieve the societies’ ambitions by widening their aims and objectives to include raising funds for additional good causes.

The GC (or Local Authority, if the society is running a Small Society Lottery registered with them) should be notified of the amendment to the aims and objectives as a Key Event, as soon as reasonably practicable and, in any event, no later than 5 working days after the amendment takes place. The society would also need to check that their new aims and objectives are compliant with charity law.

Societies promoting lotteries on behalf of other good causes must also be careful to ensure that all players clearly understand that they, and not the beneficiary or beneficiaries of the lottery, are the promoter, and that there is full transparency as to the cause that the lottery is actually benefitting, that is to say, where the “good causes element” of their ticket monies is actually going.

The GC has also reminded commercial private sector businesses that lotteries may not be run for private or commercial gain, and last week issued a Guidance Note on the limited circumstances in which such a business may become involved in fundraising through this means. Briefly put, the company must set up a separate non-commercial society, which must get itself licensed as a society (or registered as such with the Local Authority in which their Head Office is situated, depending on projected turnover) or licensed as an External Lottery Manager (“ELM”), depending on whether it is the promoter of the lottery, or merely managing all or an aspect of, it as an ELM on behalf of a society.

Commercial entities can also run incidental lotteries at an event such as fundraising dinner or fete, or set up a workplace lottery for its staff, if it wishes to raise funds for charity. However, very specific rules apply to all such schemes and advice should be sought before launching one to ensure that the particular scheme satisfies all of the legal requirements in order legitimately to be considered exempt from regulation and the need to obtain a licence or registration.

Another subject which the GC has its eye on at the moment is lotteries via SMS. I think that it’s fair to say that this is one of the “hot topics” of the moment for the sector and I am dealing almost daily with queries from operators who are seeking to capitalise on this undeniably massive opportunity whilst, at the same time, striving to be compliant.

Last week, the GC issued a Guidance Note on the subject, which may be found here: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/for-gambling-businesses/Compliance/Sector-specific-compliance/Lotteries/Using-SMS-short-codes-for-lottery-promotion.aspx

This Note broadly reflects the discussions I have been having with the GC over the last few months on this subject, and I think that we all have the same broad areas of concern. These surround, firstly, social responsibility, including how to implement self-exclusion checks, assess the risk of problem gambling, impose limits on numbers of tickets sold and carry out age-verification checks. Secondly, the concerns surrounding money laundering (albeit, these are acknowledged by the GC to be low in the case of subscription lotteries) persist.

Thirdly, Licence Condition 11.1.7 (and 11.2.7 for ELMs) requires all players in a lottery to be provided with a “ticket” containing certain prescribed information (whether as a paper document, or as an electronic document that is capable of being downloaded and/or printed) . The question therefore arises as to who will be issuing the ticket and, if it is to be the SMS provider, whether the software required to do so needs to be licensed under a gambling software licence.

Fourthly, Licence Condition requires all ticket monies to be paid to the relevant society before the draw takes place. I have advised on a number of cases involving this issue, and am confident that, as long as funds are ring-fenced, that the agreement between the SMS provider and the society provides for the lottery proceeds to be held on trust for the society, and to be transferred to, or collected by, the society within a reasonable period of, say, 14 days, this should be compliant.

Fifthly, operators will have to be very careful to check addresses of players – with only a mobile phone number to go on, additional verification will be required, to ensure both that lottery tickets are not being sold in a jurisdiction where it is unlawful to do so, or unlawful to do so without the appropriate licence, and also that players are not committing an offence in their own country of residence by purchasing lottery tickets remotely.

My residual concern relates to the requirements surrounding gambling software. I cannot see how any SMS provider can link in with gambling operators (for example, issuing a compliant ticket) without adapting their software specifically for gambling (the GC’s test as to what does, and does not, constitute gambling software). In my view, the jury is still out on this issue.

There is still a great deal of work to be done before the industry plunges into SMS. SMS is indisputably a great opportunity, but it is a real challenge from a compliance point of view. We will continue to monitor developments in this area and report back in further editions of this Newsletter.

The heat is on for FOBTs!

Posted by Woods Whur | Gambling

As Oscar Wilde said: “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.” I suppose that, to the extent that I tend to have Radio 4 on in the background at all times when I am at home, this saying is true of me. It does have its upsides, though: something made me sit up – and turn the volume up – on Sunday night. The opening of The Westminster Hour (Sundays, 10pm) announced that the presenter, Carolyn Quinn, and her panel would be discussing the proposed crackdown on Category B2 machines, which we all know as FOBTs.

Should you wish to listen, the programme is available here for the next month or so: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09lw2yc#play (at 48 – 56 minutes) and it presents an extremely negative portrait of these machines, with any arguments advanced on behalf of the industry being roundly shot down in flames at every turn.

This feature was looking ahead to the close of the Government’s Consultation on the subject, initially launched on 31 October for 12 weeks, but which has been extended, so the closing date is now next Tuesday, 23 January. Quinn’s panel was   composed of Tory MP and rebel Nicky Morgan (the same Nicky Morgan who voted against same-sex marriage and subsequently stated publicly that she regretted her decision), the broadcaster, journalist, blogger and former Tory politician Iain Dale and the Labour Leader of the House of Lords, Angela Smith.

The proposal to reduce staking on FOBTs from £100 to £2, which is the focus of the Consultation, is primarily being driven by Tory MP Tracey Crouch, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Sport and Civil Society, whose remit includes gambling. As Iain Dale remarked, to even get the plan to consultation stage in the face of Treasury resistance is a remarkable achievement for a relatively junior Minister. Tracey won her Chatham and Aylesford seat from Labour in 2010 and was only appointed as a Minister (initially as Parliamentary Under Secretary for Sport, Tourism and Heritage) on 12 May 2015.

The programme centered heavily on an interview with Matt Zarb-Cousin, who describes himself as a former gambling addict who is an activist and has been an aide to Jeremy Corbyn. He is currently a spokesperson for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. The interview described how he became rapidly addicted to FOBTs at the age of 16 and how he lost in the region of £20,000 in the space of 4 years, becoming suicidal as a result, before being bailed out by his parents.

He described FOBTs as “the most addictive form of gambling”, and the liberalisation of the gambling industry brought about by the Gambling Act 2005 as “one of the Labour Party’s biggest mistakes” which, in his opinion, has failed to produce the hoped-for regeneration of deprived cities and areas via what he called “super-casinos”.

He also criticised self-exclusion procedures, saying that they do not work as they depend on staff recognising individuals and preventing them from entering betting premises. He pointed out that self-exclusion procedures only deal with those “who are already very addicted, who have already lost way more than they can afford”. Instead, he said, the industry should focus on preventing harm and people becoming addicted in the first place – but he gave no specifics as to how he thought this might be achieved, other than looking to eliminate the most addictive products, namely FOBTs.

Zarb-Cousin dismissed the argument that bookmakers support the UK horseracing industry via the levy out of hand, saying that FOBTs actually undermine that industry by creating “a new generation” of gamblers who have no interest in form or odds or in betting on horseracing or other sports. This explains, he contended, the contribution to bookmakers’ profits from FOBTs being over 50%. He pointed to the distinction between the features of sports betting, involving “informed decisions” and intervals between events, and those of FOBTs, where gamblers can risk up to £100 every 20 seconds.

It is regrettable that the programme did not include any direct contribution from the industry – I do not know whether anyone from the sectors was invited to participate or not, but the result is that all the arguments against FOBTs went unchecked and this painted a very negative picture. Following Zarb Cousin’s interview, the discussion went back to the studio panel, who were in unanimous agreement that stakes should be reduced as proposed, as, in the view of participants, FOBTs “undoubtedly do damage to people’s lives”. The suggestion that there should be any consideration of personal liberty was dismissed by Iain Dale and, whilst Angela Smith conceded that there is clearly a problem with people gambling similar amounts online, it was abundantly clear that the knives are well and truly out for FOBTs across Parliament and among commentators.

Once the Consultation closes, the matter will go to the new culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, for a decision. Newmarket is in his constituency and he is known to be a race-goer, so it remains to be seen whether he is swayed by the argument that bookmakers support horseracing, or whether he shares Zarb Cousin’s view that FOBTs are undermining the sport. Either way, pundits are suggesting that this may well be his first significant announcement since he took up his new post.

The outcome of the Consultation is expected towards the end of March and we will, of course, report further then. In the meantime, I’m going back to my radio.

Anna Mathias

It may come as a surprise to many that the common medical condition that now keeps most workers away from work is not as was previously and consistently shown as that of muscular-skeletal disorders – or as we would call it, having a bad back! This has been replaced by mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and depression.

It may be difficult for many of us to accept that the mental health problems that our employees face outside of work and even inside work, could be our responsibility to deal with whilst in work.

The law makes it clear that we have an obligation to keep our employees and to a certain extent others, safe in the workplace.

Traditionally, this has been seen as keeping them free from harm of a physical nature.

However, employers need to act reasonably to prevent more intangible risks such as stress and anxiety which could be caused in the workplace and of course, a proportion if not all of it, could well be influenced by non-work related factors.

It is difficult to make that assessment, but you should always plan for and deal with mental health issues just as much as you would your fire safety or manual handling arrangements.

Ensure your managers are talking to employees at an early stage when possible issues are raised or identified, and encouraging employees to approach their own GP or make use of any occupational health arrangements you have in place.

You need to assess risks of mental health issues just as you would other risks in the business and document them. As with all risk assessments and similar documents, you should be able to demonstrate that you are following them and that you are managing the needs of your employees that suffer issues like this. This is important not just in terms of regulatory enforcement, but in potential personal injury claims or employment disputes.

It is not unheard of for regulators to take action for failures in this regard and regardless of the legal requirements the obvious benefits to having a workforce that are free from the all the types of mental health issues discussed here, can only benefit the business as a whole.

It is worth remembering that health and safety law stretches beyond the obvious physical risks to dealing with issues that historically perhaps, employers have neglected and cannot afford to do any longer without risking intervention by the regulators, the courts and tribunals.

Sometimes you have to pinch yourself when you see how slowly the wheels of the legislature and legislative scrutiny grind around. It is agony, thinking back to when we went through the run-up to the Licensing Act and its transitional period. I am hoping we don’t have to go through anything like that again. The specialist lawyers made huge recommendations against the introduction of the Licensing Act and the DCMS said we were only saying what we were saying because of self-interest and that we were concerned that our mid- to long-term future was threatened. Well, we can see where that went! It would be fantastic to be able to assess the cost to the industry of the 2003 Act, as compared to what the DCMS proudly predicted. We have one Licensing Authority we deal with regularly who will not accept minor variation applications in identical terms to those readily accepted as minor variation applications by other Licensing Authorities. The cost to the operator is therefore significantly more….just one example of the strange workings of the legislation.

So, it was always going to be interesting to see what was going to happen with the House of Lords’ Select Committee’s report on the Licensing Act. After hours of evidence and a very detailed report…the Government dismissed 90% of its findings out of sight. Admittedly, the Government has huge issues to deal with and the Licensing Act will be nowhere near the top of the pile, but the tone of its response to the House of Lords’ report was particularly dismissive.

It was always worth the wait to see how the Lords would respond, and just before Christmas Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, Chair of the House of Lords’ Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003, tabled a motion. She highlighted the principal recommendations of the Select Committee’s April 2017 report and the Government’s negative response to the vast majority of those recommendations.

She said: “Applicants, businesses, residents or the lawyers representing them were all critical of the decision-making generally and, in some cases, the denial of basic justice. The Government say in their response that, “we do not intend to take the approach recommended by the Committee at this time”. They believe that it is enough to improve training and provide stronger guidance — which we did recommend — on how licensing committees should be conducted. While better training and guidance may help, they cannot mend the basic flaws of the system. If the Government do not intend to follow our recommendations “at this time”, I ask the Minister to tell us at what time she thinks this would be appropriate.”

Baroness Williams of Trafford responded on behalf of the Government. It was a response which must have frustrated those who had invested so much time and effort in gathering evidence for, and giving evidence to, the Select Committee. She said:

“We accept the important points raised by the Committee on the effectiveness and consistency of implementation of licensing processes and decision-making across local areas. We agree that improvements in practice could be made. Instead of transferring the functions of licensing committees to planning committees, we are focusing on improving training and providing stronger guidance on how licensing hearings should be conducted. There is good practice in many local areas that we will build on and we will work closely with partners—the Institute of Licensing and the Local Government Association (“LGA”), in particular—to assess the training needs for councillors and the police and, where appropriate, to develop specialist training programmes with them”.

I have to say that I don’t recognise many of the significant criticisms raised in the call to evidence before the Select Committee and that, having undertaken recent planning applications, couldn’t see that that, either, is a stronger system.

Having been involved in a number of consultations over the years as a licensing lawyer, I come out of this one with the same feeling: If the Government of the day wants something to happen, it will do whatever it wishes, whatever the result of the consultation.