The Gambling Commission is currently consulting on the draft 5th Edition of its Guidance to Licensing Authorities: the consultation closes on 22 June 2015. One of the most significant planks of the amendments that will be brought forward in the new Edition will be the introduction of Local Area Profiles, prepared by the authorities themselves, to assess their local environment as a means of “mapping out” local areas of concern surrounding the licensing objectives under the Gambling Act, and the new requirement for operators of land based casinos, bingo halls, betting shops, AGCs and FECs to prepare a Local Risk Assessment whenever they apply for a new gambling premises licence or a variation to an existing licence, or at such other time as the licensing authority may require.
Whilst it is envisaged that, other than at the time of applications, authorities should only require assessments to be submitted when there has been a significant change in local circumstances or at a particular premises that might affect the mitigation of local risk, experts in the sector and amongst local authority licensing teams alike predict that the new requirements will transform the landscape surrounding gambling premises licensing.
The requirement on operators, contained in revisions to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice, to prepare Local Risk Assessments, will not apply until 6 April 2016. However, local authorities are already working on their revised Statements of Principles that will take the new measures into account. This is because the new Statements will need to be approved by each authority’s Full Council, which tend to meet only 4 times a year. This in turn means that, in practical terms, the new Statements will need to go before meetings in December if they are to be in place in time.
The Local Area Profile will take account of a wide range of factors, data and information available to local authorities and their partners, such as the police, public health, mental health, housing and education bodies, community welfare groups and safety partnerships and organisations such as Gamcare and local equivalents. They will be aimed at increasing awareness of local risk. An area might be identified as high risk, for example, because of its proximity to a school, youth centre, hostel or rehabilitation centre.
There will be no requirement upon licensing authorities to prepare a Local Area Profile, but the Commission is strongly encouraging authorities along this route and every indication is that the “take up” will be widespread and robust. Where an authority does prepare such a Profile, operators will need to take it into account in preparing their own. Local Risk Assessments, which will be a mandatory requirement.
Local Risk Assessments will be expected to evaluate the local risks to the licensing objectives presented by the provision of gambling facilities at each individual premises, and set out the policies, procedures and control measures that the operator has in place to mitigate those risks.
Local authorities are required to consult upon their Statements of Principles, and the timetable set out above dictates that they will need to issue consultations during the next month or so. Operators should be alive to this, and to the need to have their say on how Local Area Profiles should look.
We can assist our clients by monitoring the release of consultations and in preparing responses, and in drawing up Local Risk Assessments when the new requirement comes into force. For further information, please contact Anna at firstname.lastname@example.org.