City of Westminster Council, after significant consultation, and redrafting, have ratified their new Statement of Licensing Principles for Gambling. This will become effective on 12th December 2022. Much of the policy centres on the application process for new premises licences. It is our view that much of this content is equally important for existing operators in Westminster, and should be taken into account. It should be studied carefully. If necessary, advice and training should be sought and reviews should be undertaken of key documents such as the LARA and other regulatory compliance procedures.
So in conclusion, much has changed. The policy creates a new regulatory framework, and in all of the circumstances, we would advise operators to start the process of understanding the implications of the policy, reviewing key documents (including the LARA) and training general managers/key members of staff on the significant changes.
We are of course more than happy to discuss this note in detail with those who may be affected.
- The new policy comes into effect on 12 December 2022.
- The policy has changed (59 pages to 315 pages), and is significantly more detailed.
- This note intends to look at general and specific points raised within the new policy.
- “Your Duty as a Licence Venue Operator” – Paragraphs B1.77 – B1.81 (page 28) confirms that licensees must make themselves familiar with the law and their responsibilities set out within the Equality Act 2010 and relevant guidance for businesses; this Act makes discrimination against any person unlawful. Each operator will need to make an assessment of its own practices and policies, common best practice can be found at B1.81.
- “Promoting Environmental Best Practice in Gambling Premises” – Paragraphs B1.85 – B1.91 (pages 29-31) sets out Westminster’s expectation in relation to creating a cleaner and greener city by following regulatory duties but also best practice. Best practice is set out in these paragraphs including minimising waste, improving energy efficiency and reducing traffic on the roads.
- Other initiatives include:
- GamCare Accreditation – the policy provides detail on the Safer Gambling Standard offer by GamCare, (there is no requirement to become accredited.) Our view is that as it is mentioned in the policy, operators should give significant consideration to becoming GamCare accredited.
- Bet Watch/Gamble Watch Schemes are a partnership between the Police, WCC, licensed gambling premises operators and the Gambling Commission. It is designed to tackle localised anti-social behaviour and criminal behaviour in and around betting shops. Membership of a scheme is not mandatory – participation in a scheme will be seen as a positive step by the Licensing Authority (B1.96 – B1.97, page 31-32).
Gambling Risk Assessment Policy
- Existing operators are required to review their risk assessments if there are significant changes:
(1) in the local circumstances;
(2) changes to the premises;
(3) variations of the premises licence;
(4) after a Post Serious Incident Assessment (covered below).
- “Significant changes in local circumstances” – Paragraphs C1.7 – C1.11 (pages 36-37) this is only applicable when the change is significant. It may mean after reviewing that no action is necessary and if this is the case, operators should record that a review has taken, why it had occurred and that no action was necessary. C1.10 sets out a list of examples of what WCC would consider significant changes i.e. any new payday loan or pawn broker opening.
- “Significant changes to the premises” – Paragraphs C1.12 – C1.16 (pages 37-38). For any premises refit, changes to layout or internal control measures, it is expected that gambling operators will undertake the risk assessment process. C1.14 sets out what WCC would consider significant changes to the premises i.e. if gambling facilities are relocated within the premises. Please note WCC will not, as a general practice, request a copy of the reviewed risk assessment unless it necessitates a variation application.
- “Variation of the premises licence” – Paragraphs C1.17 – C1.19 (page 38) should a variation application be submitted, an operator may consider (we would advise doing this) submitting a copy of the reviewed local risk assessment when submitting the application. Specifically if it is to vary a converted casino premises licence, then a new risk assessment should be done.
- “Regular review of risk assessments” – Paragraphs C1.20 – C1.21 (page 38) WCC recommend that no more than 3 years should pass before assessments are reviewed. It also specifically states that: “operators may wish to synchronise their reviews of the local risk assessments with the publication of the council’s Statement Of Licensing Principles for Gambling.” This would enable gambling operators to consider the local area profile, which has been published in the council’s statement of licensing principles for gambling. Again, we would advise that this be done in line with the WCC thinking.
- WCC state that the risk assessment process is split down between the assessment of local risks and the determination of the appropriate mitigation to reduce those risks. Risks include: Local area risks, gambling operational risks, premises design risks, interior design risks, and exterior design risks (C1.27 and C1.37, pages 39-40).
- Control Measures – Paragraphs C1.38 – C1.41 (page 41) state that control measures may be a combination of systems, design and physical measures. These are covered in those paragraphs.
- The ‘Four Step Process’ in producing a risk assessment is set out in paragraphs C1.45 – C1.51 (pages 42-43). They emphasise the use of the local area profile for Westminster and indeed step 4 relates to an ‘Action Plan’. Whereby once an assessment has been carried out, an action plan should be completed so that any identified actions are documented and the deadline for completing the required piece of work is set and agreed.
- A template LARA is found at Appendix 6 (pages 285-293). It has a particular layout and structure; it also incorporates the ‘Action Plan’ that sets tasks and responsibilities for named individuals. You do not have to use WCC’s template, but we would strongly recommend it.
- It is our advice that the new policy creates an obligation to review the LARA.
Licensing Objective Policies
Preventing Gambling from being a source of Crime and Disorder – D1.1-D1.13, Pages 45-48
- It is our advice that if a terrorism threat risk assessment exists, then it should be reassessed against this section of the policy. If one does not exist, then it would be best practice to introduce a risk assessment.
- Whilst conducting a review of the LARA, the following are key considerations to take into account in relation to crime and disorder:
- The levels of crime and disorder in and around the venue.
- The proposed operation of the premises and the types of gambling activities that will be provided.
- The staffing levels that will be provided during the time when the premises provide facilities for gambling.
- Whether there is a history of crime or disorder associated with the premises, the operator or similar gambling premises uses.
- Whether the premises, operator or similar gambling premises uses have been used by those involved in crime to associate, carry out other criminal activities or dispose of the proceeds for crime.
- Whether the premises have been designed and considered so as to minimise opportunities for crime and disorder.
- Whether the operators of the premises have been or will be fully cooperative with enforcement agencies.
- Whether the Gambling Commission Codes of Practice have been complied with.
- WCC encourages existing operators to have due consideration to any specific protective security advice provided by the Counter Terrorism Security Advisors or other parties acting on behalf of the Police or other government agency or Responsible Authority. Should a Terrorism Threat Risk Assessment (TTRA) be produced in line with the above encouragement, the WCC will not scrutinise it, but if one is produced then it must be available to the police acting in their role to prevent and detect crime (D1.12, page 47). Advice on this is available via the National Counter Terrorism Security Office website at nactso.gov.uk (D1.13, page 47).
Ensuring That Gambling is Conducted in a Fair and Open Way
- Nothing specific for current operators.
Protecting Children and Other Vulnerable Persons From Being Harmed or Exploited by Gambling Policy – D3.1-D3.69 Pages 52-62
- Knowing your customer is a key issue of potential change in the White Paper/amendments to the Gambling Act. It is clear from the new Westminster policy that managing premises to exclude children and protect vulnerable people is one of the central tenants of the policy.
- It confirms that the WCC definition of vulnerable persons is the one that the Gambling Commission adopt. This can be found at paragraph D3.3.
- The perceived vulnerable include: young people, unemployed and constrained economic circumstance, area deprivation, homeless, mental ill health, substance abuse/misuse, personality traits/cognitive distortions, problem gamblers seeking treatment.
- WCC view that the preventing of underage access should be a major consideration for any operator (D3.26, page 56). Failure to implement effective measures will be dealt with strictly by the Licensing Authority. Measures to monitor and prevent child access are set out in paragraph D3.29 (page 56).
- ‘Protecting (Safeguarding) Children’ – Paragraph D3.23 (page 55) confirms operators should demonstrate policies and procedures that will prevent children and young people from entering or partaking in gambling activities. D3.24 confirms that licensees must ensure that children do not gain access to restricted areas and that age verification is conducted to ensure compliance. Specifically stating at paragraph D3.30 (page 56) the minimum measures that gambling operators are expected to maintain and keep under review their systems and processes in relation to children.
- Paragraph D3.33 (page 57) states that staff working in gambling premises should be trained and provided with the appropriate procedures to enable them to identify and report child-safeguarding concerns. Operators should also embed safeguarding within their senior management and ensure that one or more people within the organisation are known as safeguarding leads for staff to contact and get advice if needed. WCC expects all operators to be aware of child truancy during school times. This should form part of the operator’s risk assessment and WCC would encourage engagement with local schools where this is an issue.
- ‘Protecting vulnerable adults with cognitive impairment’ – Paragraph D3.40 – D3.44 (pages 58-59) WCC encourages licensees to ensure that they consider the risk of harm and exploitation of adults as seriously as they do for child protection measures. These are set out at Paragraphs D3.45 – D3.61 (pages 59-61). Wider harms include the following: self-neglect, modern slavery, domestic abuse, discriminatory, physical, sexual, financial or material, neglect and act of omission, emotional or psychological, major crime and radicalisation.
- ‘Gambling Operators Duty’ – Paragraphs D3.62 – D3.69 (pages 61-62). It states that WCC believe that gambling operators have a responsibility to protect adults who may or may not be partaking in a gambling activity provided at the premises. Staff working in gambling premises need to be able to identify adults who are vulnerable.
- In particular, WCC policy requires licensees to demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding vulnerable adults by striving to embed safeguarding within the culture of their organisation as a gambling premises (D3.65, page 61). Individuals who work for the gambling operator need to be informed to a sufficient level to ensure that complaints and concerns about children and adults at risk are properly identified and acted upon (D3.66).
- Gambling operators will need to consider the likely risks associated with protecting children from harm, including in premises to which children should not be admitted. This is equally the same for protecting vulnerable adults from harm (D3.67, page 62).
- Paragraph D3.68 (page 62) states that operators are expected to review the risk and may produce a Safeguarding Adults Policy and Procedure document, which is separate from any Safeguarding Children Policy and Procedure document. In addition, there should also be an appropriate referral model that offers direction to staff on how to respond, what they should record and when they should report internally and externally to statutory agencies. Again, to strengthen any application we would advise that a Safeguarding Adult Policy and Procedure document is drafted.
- Once these specific policies and procedures are put in place, operators will also need to ensure that staff are suitably trained and that someone in the organisation can act as a point of contact for staff (D3.69, page 62).
Hours Policy NB
- As it currently stands, the detail is not yet on the Westminster website, and AGC/FECs operators should continue to monitor for updates in relation to this section.
- Adult Gaming Centres, Licensed and Unlicensed FECs are required to operate to the hours specified in the Westminster Byelaw. Operators of these premises will be able to submit a request to WCC proposing an amendment to the hours specified in Regulation 4 of the Byelaw. Requests must be made in writing and comply with the relevant requirements from the council for such requests. Further information on the process for amending these byelaw hours are available from the WCC’s website (E1.2, page 65).
- Operators are expected to be aware of ‘binge’ gambling, where a customer who may be previously unknown becomes vulnerable by gambling more than they can afford, or more than they want to. Longer hours, particularly at night, present increased risks of customers becoming vulnerable and operators will be expected to demonstrate how they will mitigate such risks (E1.10, page 67).
- Any review of LARAs should take into consideration the issues raised in the sections under Gambling Vulnerability Zones. Mitigation measures should be placed in the LARA showing how operators will be consistent with the licensing objectives, bearing in mind the localised issues.
- There are now Gambling Vulnerability Zones (GVZs) – These are areas that form clusters of risk within the Local Area Profile vulnerability index as being identified areas within the city that have greater concentrations of specific groups or premises that may increase the risk of gambling related harm in that area (Policy F2).
- WCC expect operators with existing premises in such areas to have particular regard to the issues within the locality and clearly demonstrate how associated risks are to be mitigated (F2.4, page 75).
Gambling Vulnerability Zones Policy
- This states that whilst aiming to permit an application, the Licensing Authority may, nonetheless refuse applications that seek to provide gambling facilities within the Gambling Vulnerability Zone. Unless sufficient reasons for mitigation have been provided and the Licensing Authority is satisfied, the application should be granted in accordance.
- There are seven specific GVZs as set out in paragraphs F2.1-F2.29 (pages 74-82). Each is covered in specific detail, but they include:
- West End (East)
- North Westminster
- Covent Garden and The Strand (East)
- Pimlico and Belgravia
- Bayswater and Lancaster Gate
- Paddington (South)
- Should you be looking to submit an application in one of these areas then the specific GVZ should be studied in detail.
- Whilst much of the text in this section deals with new applications, it would be important to look at the impact of these sections whilst revisiting a Local Area Risk Assessment if your premises fall within one of the Gambling Vulnerability Zones. There is a clear steer here from Westminster that there are perceived issues in these areas, and we should be having robust policies in place to deal with those issues.
Gambling Premises Use Policies
- It is extremely important that if making an application that the relevant type of premises use policy is considered in detail. Each new use policy is approximately 20 pages and sets out the exact requirements and new policies that are required to be produced.
- For example, in the Betting Premises Policy – G3 it sets out the new specific policies, such as the ‘Betting Premises Cashier Counters Policy – G3-B (page 135)’. WCC expect applicants to include this policy within their gambling risk assessment setting out details of identified risks, placement of the cashier counter, its operation and what control measures will be used to mitigate or eliminate those risks. It is our view that these as well as being incorporated into the risk assessment, should also be standalone policies.
- The above is just one specific example, there are now approximately a further 18 Betting Premises related policies. All need to be addressed specifically via a policy and to be considered within an applicant’s risk assessment.
- There are policies created for each of the specific gambling uses permitted under premises licences, and it is important therefore that all policies should be reviewed as a LARA is reviewed, and amendments made accordingly.
Addition of Post Serious Incident Assessment
- There remains a section on the ‘reviewing’ of gambling premises licences, but now in addition WCC may conduct a ‘Post Serious Incident Assessment’ (PSIA) with the Police. (N1.1 – N1.5, pages 236-237).
- If a serious incident occurs in a licensed premises, a PSIA may be implemented. During the assessment, WCC will assess what happened, how the operator’s policies, procedures and/or control measures functioned and then determine whether amendments are required to these.
- WCC and the Police during the process may propose additional or amended conditions and will expect operators to proceed with a variation application to accommodate these changes. Operators will also need to update their risk assessment after such an incident.
- The PSIA may lead to a review of the premises licence if deemed necessary by WCC and the Police.
- It is our view that if a good qualitative review of LARAs and policies has been undertaken prior to an unfortunate serious incident, then a review could be avoided after a post-serious incident assessment. It is important that protection is created by this enhanced due diligence.