The Gambling Commission has given clear guidance about local risk assessments. They say “premises licence holders in your area must conduct a local risk assessment for each of their current premises. This is a social responsibility code which helps them demonstrate how they aim to address the local risks to the licensing objectives”.
The Gambling Commission, in advising the Licensing Authority, goes on to stress that this applies to all categories of gambling operations requiring premises licences and highlights that operators are required to conduct and update a risk assessment when applying for a new premises licence, applying for a variation of a premises licence and when there are changes in the local environment or to the premises warranting a fresh risk assessment to be conducted.
It is my view that Licensing Authorities are not taking obligations in this area particularly seriously and that operators’ risk assessments currently tend to be generic rather than specific in their drafting. I am not convinced that Licensing Authorities or operators are giving this the attention to detail the Gambling Commission expects.
The Gambling Commission has stressed that there is power for the Licensing Authority to challenge a risk assessment, if it feels that there is evidence that local risks have not been taken into consideration.
The requirements relating to local risk assessments should be set out in clear detail in a Licensing Authority Statement of Gambling Principles. A good example of this is Liverpool’s Statement, which says:
A.4.1 The City Council is entitled to request such information from operators as it requires to make effective licensing decisions. Whilst the 2005 Act requires that an application must be accompanied by a minimum level of information, the City Council agrees with the Gambling Commission’s view that this does not preclude reasonable requests by licensing authorities for additional information to satisfy themselves that the licensing decision is reasonably consistent with the licensing objectives and the Commission’s code. That information may include, for example, a suitable business plan or the operator’s own assessment of risk to the licensing objectives locally.
A.4.2 The City Council welcomes the implementation from 6 April 2016 of the Social Responsibility Code provision 10.1.1 (which must be followed and has the force of a licence condition) which will require licensees to assess the local risks to the licensing objectives posed by the provision of gambling facilities at each of their premises, and have policies, procedures and control measures to mitigate those risks. In undertaking their risk assessments, they must take into account relevant matters identified in the licensing authority’s policy statement.
A.4.3 Licensees will be required to undertake these local risk assessments when applying for a new Premises Licence.
At paragraph A.4.4 of its Statement, Liverpool go on to quote Ordinary Code Provision 10.1.2., which encourages licensees to share their risk assessments with Licensing Authorities.
We are now seeing that similar policies are being incorporated into more Statements of Gambling Principles, as they are being revisited and revised.
However, we are also finding that a significant number of operators (particularly when operating from multiple sites) are not taking the site-specific basis for these risk assessments seriously enough.
The Gambling Commission Guidance states that these risk assessments should be “structured in a manner that offers sufficient assurance that the premises has suitable controls and procedures in place. These controls should reflect the level of risk within the particular area which will be determined by local circumstances.”
Risk assessments should therefore take into account the risks presented by the local landscape. For example, if premises are a near school, then the operator must explain how it will mitigate the risk of underage gambling.
The Gambling Commission’s advice also states that operators should have available copies of these risk assessments on each individual premises.
I think that we will see this become a key feature in Licensing Authority policies moving forward, and operators will be expected to create bespoke risk assessments for each premises, rather than a generic risk assessment which serves all of their premises, many having different local circumstances. It is clear from the Gambling Commission’s advice that the purpose of these risk assessments is to be particularly local and bespoke, and to deal with any issues arising around the individual locality of the premises, rather than being of a generic nature.
We are more than happy to look at operators’ risk assessments and to see whether, in the circumstances, they are fit for purpose when applying for any new premises licence, applying for a variation to a premises licence, or where there has been, or is proposed, any material change in the local area or in the premises’ operation.