I have been fortunate enough in the last three months to have been involved in a considerable number of hearings before licensing sub-committees all over England. In the majority of those hearings I have been representing the trade but I have also represented local authorities on appeal and been the legal advisor to a licensing sub-committee on behalf of the local authority. It is clear that there is an ever-increasing understanding of what is required at these hearings, although there are still several examples of things happening during a hearing which should not be permitted.

It is incumbent upon any lawyers present, whether appearing on behalf of an applicant or somebody making representations, or advising the licensing committee, to ensure that the proceedings are dealt with correctly and that reasons given for the decision are full and clear. Licensing sub-committees are often berated for not providing full reasons, but if the submissions made on behalf of the applicant or those making representations are not clear, then the licensing sub-committee can often be in difficulty in giving full reasons.

I know it is difficult for those making representations to concentrate on the four licensing objectives and the potential impact of any application on those, but councillors and legal advisors should try and assist people by pointing out which matters are relevant and which matters are not.

Experience and case law has now led to the majority of licensing sub-committees referring in their reasons to consideration having been given to the Licensing Act 2003, the Section 182 Guidance, their own local authority Statement of Licensing Policy and the evidence before the licensing sub-committee. It is imperative however that we do not just pay lip service to those matters and that we do properly apply the Section 182 Guidance and the Licensing Act 2003 at any hearing before a licensing sub-committee. The same is true of the Licensing Act 2003 (Hearings) Regulations 2005. These should be adhered to at all times, and written evidence should not be allowed to be submitted during the course of the hearing if all parties do not agree to this.

If there are specific parts of the local authority licensing policy that are to be referred to, then attention should be drawn to those during submissions made by applicants or those making representations. I think that there are still too many parties to hearings who do not read local authority policies and who do not consider Section 182 Guidance, instead simply throwing at the licensing sub-committee an argument that it is hoped will work. Local authority policies are different. Some local authority policies refer to specific matters, whereas others do not. If the local authority policy refers to stricter controls being set for licensed premises if they are in a residential area, then the licensing sub-committee should be referred to this.

The same is also true of the way in which licensing sub-committees conduct the procedure at licensing hearings. Whilst there may be a general approach adopted broadly speaking throughout England and Wales, each local authority issues a specific procedure document which sets out how the parties should conduct themselves at hearings and what is permitted during them. The procedure document may, for example, say that the hearing will be discussion-led and that evidence will be given through a ten minute submission on behalf of a party. If that is the case then the sub-committee cannot be expected to take into account other matters which have not been referred to during the submission and it is essential that the relevant evidence relating to the licensing objectives, the Guidance and the Local Authority’s policy is put forward. This will enable the sub-committee fully to understand the arguments and to formulate proper reasons for its decision, which will be beneficial to all.

It still surprises me to come across, on a regular basis, people making submissions which are not relevant, do not pick up on the specific wording of a local authority policy and completely ignore both the Hearings Regulations and the procedures set down by the licensing authority.

The Government published its response to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s Fifth Report of Session on society lotteries in September, indicating that it would accept or explore further all of the Committee’s main recommendations for reform of the sector. It has asked the Gambling Commission (“GC”) for advice and input in a number of areas, a piece of work that the GC has said should be complete by the end of this month. Here, we look at some of the changes that may be afoot.

The current review has been inspired, at least in part, by the development in recent times of so-called “super-lotteries”, umbrella lottery schemes such as the Health Lottery and People’s Postcode Lottery whereby multiple draws are promoted under a single brand. The Government is contemplating where these sit within the lotteries landscape overall, and how best to regulate them, in order to maximise contributions to good causes whilst ensuring player protection.

The Government supports the Report’s conclusion that lotteries, being the preserve of good causes, are separate and distinct from other gambling products and that their regulation should be as “light-touch” as possible. However, it is concerned that public trust and confidence in charitable lotteries, and the good causes they support, should be maintained and not tainted by any perception that they are being run primarily as devices to further commercial interests. It is also conscious of the need to ensure that The National Lottery continues to be in a position to donate the very large sums that it currently does to good causes, although it acknowledges the Report’s conclusion that there is currently no evidence that society lotteries are posing any threat to it.

The Government says that it will consider the Report’s recommendation that a sliding scale of minimum percentage donations from proceeds be introduced, to alleviate the burden on smaller lotteries, whilst increasing obligations as lotteries become larger. It has asked the GC to review the current monetary caps on proceeds and prizes for small and large lotteries and to advise on whether these should be raised, and if so, to what levels, bearing in mind the need to protect the position of The National Lottery. However, the Government has rejected the Committee’s recommendation that the caps be reviewed every three years as a matter of course, preferring to continue to rely on the GC to keep a watching brief and to tell it when a review is necessary.

In its response, the Government echoes the Committee’s concerns about umbrella lottery schemes operating as devices to circumvent those monetary limits and has asked the GC for advice on this issue, and on introducing a new class of umbrella lotteries, with its own limits on individual draws, annual proceeds and prizes. However, Government recognises that this is a complex area that will need to be handled carefully to avoid any detrimental impact by diminishing the overall return to good causes. It also acknowledges that any change in this area will require amendments to primary legislation, and has promised to consult with the sector before acting.

One of the Committee’s recommendations is that an amendment to the Gambling Act 2005 be brought forward to enable lottery start-up costs to be spread over a period of, perhaps, three years. This would have the consequence that the obligation to donate at least 20% of proceeds to the cause would disappear initially, and would be replaced by an obligation instead to use best endeavours to donate that amount, coupled with an onus being placed on the GC to weed out, through the licensing process, rogue, would-be “phoenix schemes”, designed to make commercial gain and then fold before the three years are up. The Government is concerned, though, about the way in which such a change would apply to small society lotteries, regulated as they are by Local Authorities, and wants to conduct further analysis to see if this proposed solution would be workable and whether it would add unduly to the regulatory burden. For now, it has asked the GC for its view on the subject, and to advise on two other methods advanced to the Committee of giving organisations increased flexibility to develop new lottery products, namely extending the minimum 20% donation to good causes obligation across a year, and enabling entities simultaneously to hold both large and small society lottery licences.

The Committee stressed the importance of transparency in lotteries and recommended that information about the proportions of ticket monies spent on expenses, devoted to prizes and donated to the good cause be included on lottery tickets. The Government agrees that transparency is key and has asked the GC to look at the options for improving the information provided to consumers, and how it should be made available.

The Government also agrees with the Committee that it is not appropriate for the larger, well-established lotteries to donate only the statutory minimum 20% of lottery proceeds to the good cause. The Committee rejected the option of raising this minimum figure, but the Government wishes to explore that possibility further. This is because it fears that the Committee’s alternative recommendation, that a cap on expenses for the largest lotteries be set at 35% of proceeds, might have unintended consequences in that it might encourage operators to divide into smaller entities in order to circumvent the rules, and discourage them from seeking efficiencies below 35%, thereby creating “a race to the top”. The Government therefore proposes to explore both these possibilities, as well as the Committee’s alternative solution that 12% lottery duty be introduced for any scheme that does not donate at least 32% of proceeds to the good cause.

The Government has also taken up the Committee’s recommendation that the licence application process and regulatory framework generally, insofar as it applies to the lotteries sector, be reviewed to ensure that it is not unduly burdensome. It has asked for the GC’s guidance in this regard. It is also pursuing with the GC the possibility that commercial entities be allowed to run lotteries for good causes. Here, the language of the response is unclear, as of course External Lottery Managers are already permitted to do so if they are appropriately licensed. It can only be assumed that something other than this is envisaged, such as non-specialist companies running lotteries as part of their corporate social responsibility activities. The Government has asked the GC to explore this recommendation further, but has cautioned that such schemes may not be capable of being dealt with by way of “light-touch” regulation, particularly at the outset of a venture.

It was suggested to the Committee that the regulatory regime should be more flexible, allowing any society licensed to run a lottery to do so on behalf of other good causes, as long as transparency to players is maintained surrounding who the beneficiary of the lottery is. The Committee endorsed that suggestion and the Government has promised to consider this further, for cases where there is a clear benefit in this happening.

Both Camelot and the GC brought their concerns before the Committee surrounding the blurring of the distinctions between lotteries and betting, as a result of the evolution of online gambling. The Government agrees that transparency and reducing consumer confusion are important, and has asked the GC to evaluate the three possible solutions suggested by Camelot, namely banning all betting on UK licensed lotteries, improving the clarity of marketing materials to distinguish better between betting and lottery products, and redefining all bets on lotteries as lotteries.
It is clear that there is a great deal of work for the GC to do, within a relatively tight timescale. Where the Government takes matters once it has received the GC’s input remains to be seen, but it is likely that some significant changes to the regulation of lotteries are likely to result from this process. We will continue to monitory developments and will report further once the GC’s advice and guidance to Government is made public.

In a previous edition of our ‘latest news’, Paddy Whur’s article on ‘Late Night Refreshment De-Regulation’ examined the recently released Home Office issued Guidance on the licensing of late night refreshment.

I can confirm that the Licensing Act 2003 (Late Night Refreshment) Regulations 2015 were laid before Parliament on 13 October 2015 and will come into force on 5 November 2015.

These Regulations prescribe those descriptions of premises that a licensing authority is permitted to designate, as exempt from the requirement to be licensed to provide late night refreshment.

Here is a summary of the changes.

The Regulations will allow Licensing Authorities to exempt from the need for a licence supplies of late night refreshment:

• on or from premises which are wholly situated in designated area;
• on or from premises which are of a designated description; or
• during a designated period (beginning no aerlier than 23:00 hours and ending no later than 05:00 hours).

A Licensing Authority can only exempt types of premises set out in the Regulations. It should also be noted that these exemptions will only apply if Licensing Authorities chose to adopt these measures.

The types of premises that can be exempted are:

• Motorway service areas;
• Petrol stations;
• Local authority premises (except domestic premises) unless there is an event taking place at which more than 500 people are present;
• Schools (except domestic premises) unless there is an event taking place at which more than 500 people are present;
• Hospitals (except domestic premises);
• Community premises (church, chapel, village, parish, community hall or other similar building) unless there is an event taking place at which more than 500 people are present;
• Licensed premises authorised to sell by retail of alcohol for consumption on the premises between the hours of 23:00 and 05:00.

Should you require any further information on this topic, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Chris Rees-Gay at chris@woodswhur.co.uk

Another month brings another hefty tome from the Gambling Commission (“GC”). Its consultation on proposed amendments to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (“LCCP”) in relation to the prevention of crime associated with gambling opened on 30 September, and closes on 30 December.

The consultation seeks views on a number of changes to the LCCP that it proposes to introduce in 2016, and invites debate in a number of other areas, such as digital currencies, where its thinking is clearly still at a very early stage. It also sets out a couple of fields of future work in which it is currently engaged, aimed at keeping crime out of gambling.

The GC is at pains to point out that it does not intend the LCCP to prescribe detailed rules; instead, they should describe the outcomes that the GC expects operators to achieve, leaving the operators themselves, who the GC considers to be best placed to decide how to secure those outcomes cost-effectively within their own organisations, to decide exactly what measures to put in place, and how to ensure that those measures are actually working. The consultation paper does, however, lay the responsibility for delivering on the licensing objectives under the Gambling Act firmly at the door of operators, something which will irk those who have argued in the past that that responsibility appears nowhere on the face of the legislation.

The GC is of the view that its current requirements on operators surrounding the reporting of criminal activity within and affecting their businesses are inadequate, and that they lead to under-reporting and inconsistency. Currently, the relevant licence condition confines the reporting requirement to cases where an offence specified under the Gambling Act 2005 has been committed and offences involving the holder of a Personal Management or Functional Licence. The GC has identified a wide range of circumstances in which gambling and crime can be connected, including offences committed by customers against other customers and those committed by the licensee’s employees in collusion with customers.

In order to ensure consistency as to the scale and nature of offence that must be reported, and to enable it to collect more comprehensive information about gambling-related crime, the GC proposes to introduce a clearer LCCP requirement to level the playing field and to provide it with a wide range of information to enable it to take consistent, proportionate and risk-based decisions. It proposes to add to licence condition 15.2.1 a requirement that licensees report any criminal investigation by a law enforcement agency, including the police and the National Crime Agency, in which they are involved, in circumstances where the GC could reasonably be expected to question whether the licensee had taken sufficient steps to keep crime out of gambling. The duty will extend to crimes allegedly committed by or against the licensee, by employees of the licensee, and by third parties in circumstances involving the licensee’s gambling facilities.

The GC says that it has also frequently picked up shortcomings in licensees’ procedures to prevent money laundering, particularly in cases where proceeds of crime are laundered by being spent on gambling. It is therefore seeking views on the introduction of new licence conditions requiring licensees to conduct and annually review a money laundering risk assessment, and to devise an action plan as a result, to manage and mitigate the risks. It will not ask for risk assessments and action plans to be submitted to it as a matter of course but they will need to be available on demand. In the GC’s view, operators should already be assessing and dealing with these risks in the same way as they manage commercial risks, but the need to formalise these processes will doubtless be felt, particularly by smaller operators.

The GC is also asking for comments on its proposal to add a new licence condition to improve operators’ due diligence checks on customers by requiring them to identify and monitor the gambling activity of any customer they have identified as presenting a heightened money laundering risk, and to take appropriate steps to satisfy themselves that the funds being used are legitimate.

The GC has identified failings on the part of operators in monitoring customers’ gambling activity across all outlets, platforms and products. This is despite the Social Responsibility Code provision requiring licensees to have policies and procedures in place to identify separate accounts held by the same individual. It is therefore suggesting a new Ordinary Code provision requiring operators, as a matter of best practice, to take reasonable steps to monitor customers’ activity across their entire portfolio, for the purpose of fully assessing money laundering risks. The GC acknowledges that this is a difficult area and it is not easy to see what an Ordinary Code provision will achieve, given that the GC is currently not satisfied with the degree of compliance with the existing Social Responsibility Code provision, which has the force of a licence condition.

Licensees are not currently obliged to disclose to the GC occasions when they decide to terminate a relationship with a customer, either because they believe that the customer is engaged in money laundering or they consider that continuing to transact with them would lead to a risk of commission of money laundering offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The GC proposes a new licence condition requiring operators to declare the number of times they have discontinued a business relationship for these reasons, in order to enable it to develop a clearer understanding of money laundering threats and trends in the gambling industry. The consultation asks respondents to comment on how far such a requirement would add to the regulatory burden on operators.

Remote casino operators whose remote gambling equipment is located outside Great Britain but who transact with customers here have, since November 2014, been required to be licensed by the GC and the GC has secured their compliance with the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 by placing an individual condition on their licences. The GC is seeking to tidy up this situation by introducing a new general licence condition, in the interests of transparency and consistency.

It is also proposed to tidy up the rules relating to cash handling procedures to ensure that, not only do they extend to cash equivalents, but also that licensees’ procedures are effective and appropriate to minimise risks associated with money laundering and the giving of illicit credit to customers. It has also identified that linking the payout of winnings with the means by which the customer has paid for the gambling transaction as a means of mitigating, although not eliminating, money laundering risks and is seeking views on whether this should be introduced as a licence condition.

The GC is also proposing elevating the status of the requirement to comply with its Guidance on Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Advice on the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 from an Ordinary Code provision to a Social Responsibility Code provision with the force of a licence condition. The consultation incorporates a revised edition of the former document and asks for comments upon the amendments to it that are proposed, which take account of lessons the GC has learnt in the field and provide updated advice on matters such as the definition of money laundering and operators’ obligations under the Proceeds of Crime Act. It is intending that a further revised edition of the Guidance will be produced in mid 2017, when the EU 4th Money Laundering Directive will be transposed into UK law.

The GC is committed to supporting Operation Creative, a multi-agency initiative designed to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content. It expresses its concern in the consultation paper at the fact that advertisements for mainstream licensed gambling operators are still appearing on offending websites, saying that this remains significant, despite a 36% decrease over the period from March to June 2015. It points to the significant reputational damage to both operators and itself that this might cause. It is seeking views on whether to introduce a new Social Responsibility Code provision to compel operators to take all reasonable measures to ensure that digital advertisements placed by themselves or third parties do not appear on copyright infringing websites, and on what other measures might be implemented.

The betting integrity regulatory system currently relies on operators reporting suspicious activity to the GC, but the regulator believes that employees are not sufficiently tied in to this process. It fears that the system is being undermined by the possibility that employees of betting operators might use information concerning suspicious trends in betting markets to place bets in their own interest. Accordingly, it is proposing a new Ordinary Code provision requiring betting operators to put in place, within their terms and conditions of employment, obligations upon employees to report any indications of suspicious betting to their employer and prohibiting them from using information about suspicious betting to their own advantage by placing bets, whether with their employer or other operators.

Digital currencies such as Bitcoin have grown in popularity in recent times and have been subject to increasing public, industry and government scrutiny over the last twelve months. The GC takes the opportunity, as part of this consultation process, to underline its view that digital currencies are considered as “money or money’s worth” for the purposes of the Gambling Act, and hence that their use in gambling does constitute real money gambling and require to be appropriately licensed. The current edition of the LCCP requires operators to notify the GC of any use of digital currencies as a key event, but it is proposing to add a new licence condition obliging operators to include new methods of payments by customers in their money laundering risk assessment. The consultation paper highlights the challenges associated with the use of digital currencies, including the degree of anonymity that they bring, and acknowledges that KYC is likely to be more challenging where they are involved. However it also acknowledges the benefits of using digital currencies, such as reduced payment costs.

It is clear that the GC’s thinking on digital currencies is at a relatively early stage. The consultation paper seeks views surrounding the topic generally, including the benefits and challenges associated with them and ways of mitigating the risks they present.

Finally, the GC takes the opportunity in the consultation paper to set out a couple of areas of future work which it is currently in the process of developing. It is gathering evidence on whether the current controls on peer to peer poker in the Remote Gambling and Software Technical Standards are sufficient to provide the required level of information to customers and deter would-be cheaters and expects to complete that exercise by the end of this year. In the next six months it is planning to assess the current regulatory framework for gambling in Great Britain against the Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, which the UK has still to ratify, with a view to introducing any necessary amendments or improvements.
This is a wide-ranging consultation, covering a whole host of issues relating to crime in gambling and the first licensing objective under the Gambling Act. You can have your say by the end of the day on 30 December at consultation@gamblingcommission.gov.uk.

On 1 October 2015, the Home Office issued Guidance on the licensing of late night refreshment. This confirms my gripe in my previous article about not really knowing where to look for changes that are being made to the Licensing Act through tinkering with it via other pieces of legislation.

People may have missed the introduction of this Guidance, which announces de-regulation in this area. It will allow Licensing Authorities to exempt the supplies of late night refreshment:

• on or from premises which are wholly situated in designated area;
• on or from premises which are of a designated description; or
• during a designated period (beginning no later than or earlier than 23:00 hours and ending no later than 05:00 hours).

The Home Office Guidance is not currently part of the Section 182 Guidance to the Licensing Act. However, the Home Office has made it plain that this will be included in the Section 182 Guidance when there is a new Edition. The covering note accompanying the new Guidance states that “the provisions in the De-Regulation Act 2015 that this Guidance covers came into force on 1 October 2015; However the changes will not come into effect in full until November 2015 when the regulations prescribing premises types come into force”.

I really don’t know why this couldn’t be done in one move, rather than in the “bits and pieces” approach being taken by Government.

If we study the non-statutory Guidance, which will become statutory Guidance once it is incorporated in the section 182 Guidance, we can see the detail.

The full Guidance can be seen at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-the-licensing-of-late-night-refreshment. Some critical elements are as follows:-

Paragraph 3.5 states: “When choosing to designate particular categories of premises exempt, a Licensing Authority can only exempt types of premises set out in the regulations. These are:

• Motorway service areas;
• Petrol stations;
• Local authority premises (except domestic premises) unless there is an event taking place at which more than 500 people are present;
• Schools (except domestic premises) unless there is an event taking place at which more than 500 people are present;
• Hospitals (except domestic premises);
• Community premises (church, chapel, village, parish, community hall or other similar building) unless there is an event taking place at which more than 500 people are present;
• Licensed premises authorised to sell by retail of alcohol for consumption on the premises between the hours of 23:00 and 05:00.

Paragraph 3.11 gives guidance on the circumstances in which licensing authorities may look to bring about the exemption: “When deciding which exemption to use, if any, the relevant Licensing Authority should always first consider what the risks are in terms of the promotion of the licensing objectives. Decision to make an exemption is a licensing function that Licensing Authorities should include within their statement of licensing policy. It would then therefore be subject to the statutory consultation process with other responsible authorities and relevant parties set out in Section 5 of the 2003 Act.”

There is a duty, set out in paragraph 3.12, to publicise any changes that are being made, and to update the statement of licensing policy as soon as is practicable.”

However there is no requirement for the Licensing Authority to tell premises individually. Instead, they should “publicise the exemption in a way that ensures that those who are likely to be affected may benefit from it.” It will be interesting to see to what extent Licensing Authorities make use of these exemptions (bearing in mind that doing so will have the effect of reducing their fee income!) and we will of course keep you appraised of any developments.

As recently announced, we have established a strategic relationship with Innpacked Training. This is to strengthen our commitment to training in the licensed sector and to offer a quality training solution to our clients.

Innpacked specialise in the training and development of the licensed trade and as such deliver a number of qualifications, including the APLH Personal Licence Holders Course – APLH dates can be found easily at http://www.innpacked.com or by calling 08000 786056 or by email at woodswhur@innpacked.com . Discounts are available to Woods Whur clients – please mention when requesting information on all courses, not just the APLH Personal Licence course.

Innpacked has also recently announced the launch of their national Public Emergency First Aid at Work courses. This will mean that as a Woods Whur client you will have access to regular First Aid courses in your area for a minimum of one candidate.

Innpacked also provide a wide range of other courses – these include:

Level 2 Award for Personal Licence Holders – at your venue or on one of our courses held nationally.
Level 2 Award in Underage Sales.
Level 1 Award in Responsible Alcohol Retailing.
First Aid at Work (All Levels).
Health and Safety Course (All Levels).
Fire Safety Courses (All Levels).
Food Safety Courses (All Levels).

Innpacked can also develop bespoke customer service/induction packages and deliver workshops and courses unique to your business requirements. They can be your one stop training resource.

To discuss any of the above, simply contact Innpacked on 08000 786056 or email Innpacked at woodswhur@innpacked.com they will be happy to arrange your place on a course or answer any specific questions you have.

On 8 May 2015, the Gambling Commission published its latest LCCP (Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice) which introduce a new requirement for gambling operators to undertake a local risk assessment of the area surrounding their premises.

Social responsibility code provision 10.1.1 “assessing local risk” relates to “all non remote casino, adult gaming centre, bingo, family entertainment centre, betting and remote betting intermediary (trading room only) licences, except non remote general betting (limited) and betting intermediary licences”.

The provision comes into force on 6 April 2016 and requires these operators to do the following:

1. Licensees must assess the local risk 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 making risk assessments, licensees must take into account relevant matters identified in the licensing authority’s statement of licensing policy.

2. Licensees must review (and update as necessary) their local risk assessments:

a) To take account of significant changes in local circumstances, including those identified in a licensing authority’s statement of licensing policy;

b) When there are significant changes at a licensee’s premises that may affect their mitigation of local risks;

c) When applying for a variation of a premises licence; and

d) In any case undertake a local risk assessment when applying for a new premises licence.

I have already been asked by a number of clients whether this relates to existing premises licences or whether it just relates to new applications and variations. Does a major high street bookmaker with over 1500 shops need to have in place a local risk assessment for every shop? Ordinary code provision 10.12 which also comes into force on 6 April 2016 confirms the position: “Licensees should share their risk assessment with licensing authorities when applying for a premises licence or applying for a variation to existing licensed premises or otherwise on request.

It seems clear therefore that all current gambling premises licences must have associated with them a written risk assessment supported by the necessary policies, procedures and control measures, and that the holders of such licences must make those available upon request to the licensing authority.

I have been involved in a number of betting office applications recently that have received representations and in each case we have provided a risk assessment which covers the representations and refers to the supporting policies. We analysed the representations that were made and the points that were made in them (whether or not they were strictly valid) and produced a risk assessment which dealt with the representations and referred to various parts of policies and procedures which would deal with those concerns. In each of the recent cases I have dealt with this has proved particularly helpful in overcoming representations and will be a specific requirement as from 6 April 2016.

What will become very interesting is the way in which licensing authorities change their statement of licensing policy. The risk assessment must take into account local circumstances identified in licensing policies. I have previously written an article on the work commissioned by Westminster and Manchester City Councils, who are looking to explore and document a range of characteristics that suggest someone is vulnerable to harm from gambling and to develop a local risk index model showing areas where those who may be more vulnerable to harm are located.

It will be necessary for applicants for variations and for new licences to ensure that they fully appreciate what is contained within the statement of licensing policy, to ensure that any risk assessment deals with specific issues raised in the local policy. Westminster and Manchester are not saying that if a local risk index model highlights a particular area where those who may be more vulnerable to harm are located then applications in that area will not be granted. They are placing a burden upon the applicant to show how the licensing objectives are promoted and how their policies, procedures and control measures will mitigate those risks.

Andy and I are delighted that the Legal 500 ranking for 2015 has placed Woods Whur in Band 1 for the third consecutive year since we launched our practice. We are extremely pleased about this and feel this reflects the relationship that we have with our clients across a broad sector. We have been described as offering a service where “The client is at the heart of everything they do” and we are delighted to maintain our Tier 1 ranking.

The Gambling Commission’s Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) require gambling operators licensed by the Commission which contract directly with consumers to have arrangements in place for customers to be able to refer any dispute to an independent person offering alternative dispute resolution services, or ADR.
This requirement appears as Social Responsibility Code 61.1. and has the force of a condition on the operating licence, so any failure to comply can place that licence at risk. From 1 October, the EU’s Trader Information Requirements come into force in the UK and the Commission has underlined the need for all operators – and the ADR entities they use – to be fully compliant, so now is a good time to check the arrangements that you have in place.

Since 31 August, you can only use an ADR that has been authorised by the Commission to handle customer disputes. A dispute in this context is defined as a complaint from a customer concerning the outcome of a gambling transaction, that you have been unable to resolve in-house.

The EU’s ADR Directive and its separate Regulation on consumer online dispute resolution, the ODR Regulation, are at the root of the obligations surrounding the use of approved ADR entities. They oblige EU Member States to ensure access for consumers to ADR that meets certain standards, by designating competent authorities to approve, monitor and maintain lists of ADR entities. The Commission is the competent authority designated by the Government under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015, approved by Parliament in March, as having responsibility for authorising ADR entities to deal with disputes in the gambling sector.

Applications for approved ADR status have been accepted by the Commission since April this year, with the deadline for obtaining authorisation in time for the end of August falling at the end of May. It is still possible to apply, so if you are currently using an ADR entity which isn’t Commission-approved, you must stop immediately and make arrangements with an entity which is – this can be on a temporary basis until your current provider gets approval.

At present, there are some 11 approved ADR entities listed on the Commission’s website, some of which, such as the National Casino Forum and the Tattersalls Committee, act only in certain sectors of the gambling industry (casino and bingo, and betting, respectively). Others, such as the ADR Group, work across all sectors, and still others act only for certain operators, such as the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission, which only provides services to operators who are also licensed there. The Commission allows operators to have arrangements with more than one ADR entity and to direct customers to different entities, depending on the nature and subject matter of the dispute.

The Commission is still working on the Regulations that will determine its fees for carrying out its authorisation function, but it is envisaged that these will be based on a cost-recovery system and on a daily rate in the region of £750.

EU law aims to ensure that ADR entities overseeing disputes have the necessary expertise, and that they are independent and impartial. Here is a snapshot of the information that an ADR must submit to the Commission when seeking approval:

• Its name, contact address and website address ;
• Information on its structure and funding;
• Its procedural rules;
• The average length of its ADR procedures;
• The language(s) in which disputes can be submitted and conducted;
• The type(s) of dispute covered;
• The grounds on which it may decline to deal with a dispute; and
• A reasoned statement setting out how it will ensure independence and impartiality.

In order to obtain approval, the ADR entity must maintain an up-to-date website that provides information about its procedure. It must enable parties to file an initial complaint online and to upload documents electronically. The procedure must also be available by paper or email if requested, though, and be generally available and easily accessible such that parties are not obliged to obtain independent advice or be represented, unless they so choose.

The ADR entity’s website must display certain information in a clear and easily understandable manner, including:

• Its contact details, with postal and email address;
• A statement that it has been approved by the Commission;
• Details of its ADR officials, how they were appointed and the duration of their appointment;
• The name of any network of bodies of which it is a member that facilitates cross-border ADR;
• The type(s) of dispute it is competent to deal with, including any financial thresholds;
• The procedural rules it operates and the grounds on which it can refuse to deal with a dispute;
• The language(s) in which disputes can be submitted and conducted;
• The principles it applies in resolving a dispute;
• Any preliminary requirements the parties have to meet before the procedure can begin;
• Whether or not a party can withdraw from a dispute;
• The costs to the parties, if any, including any rules on awarding costs at the conclusion of the procedure;
• The average length of each of its ADR procedures;
• The legal effect of the outcome of the ADR procedure, whether it is binding on the parties, its enforceability and the penalty for non-compliance; and
• Whether the procedure can be conducted by oral or written means, or both.

Customer-facing gambling operators must make sure that the ADR providers they choose to use are fully compliant in all of the above respects, by 1 October, when the Trader Information Requirements come into force. The Commission requires all ADR in gambling to be provided completely free-of-charge to the consumer, and expects operators to offer ADR which is binding on them (if accepted by the consumer) for all disputes which would otherwise be taken to the small claims court (currently, claims for not more than £10,000). For disputes over £10,000, the ADR need not be binding – this allows for mediation to be used in such cases, or for adjudication decisions to be non-binding on the operator.

As well as ensuring that its ADR entity is compliant, there are various obligations relating to ADR that rest upon gambling operators themselves. They must display information about the ADR entities they use on their websites and in their sales contracts. In addition, they must keep all information and records relating to any dispute for a minimum period of 12 months – that is the minimum period that must elapse after the operator has notified the customer that it has been unable to resolve a complaint internally, before its ADR entity can decline to deal with the dispute when it is subsequently presented to that entity, on grounds of delay.

The Regulations implementing the ADR Directive require ADR entities to publish annual activity reports on their websites, and to submit two-yearly reports to the Commission. However this does not absolve gambling operators from their responsibilities arising from the LCCP concerning reporting disputes to the Commission. They must submit a copy of the decision on, or note of the outcome of, each dispute referred to an ADR entity to the Commission, or arrange for this to be submitted by the ADR entity. The Commission expects such reports to be submitted electronically, and to include, as a minimum:

• A summary of the dispute, including the parties to it and their views on it, the subject matter, the amount in dispute and the dates of the events leading to it;
• A note of the dispute outcome, including whether the decision was in favour of the customer or the operator and whether the operator was directed to settle the amount in dispute;
• The reasons for the decision, including the rules or provisions applied and supporting evidence; and
• Other basic information including details of the Commission licence(s) to which the dispute relates and the identity of the ADR entity.

The advent of the Trader Information Requirements presents the ideal opportunity for operators to review how they deal with customers’ complaints and any ensuing disputes. If you have any questions about how to handle these, or any concerns about whether the ADR entity you are using is compliant, contact one of our team, who will be happy to advise you.

The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) will be introduced by HMRC on 1 October 2015. This scheme is being introduced to tackle alcohol fraud. It is, therefore, your responsibility as an alcohol wholesaler or trade buyer to be aware of your new obligations.

As of 1 April 2017, all businesses that trade in, or retail, alcohol will need to make sure that any UK wholesalers that they buy from are registered with HMRC. It should be noted that HMRC will provide an online ‘look up’ service, so that trade buyers can ensure wholesalers they buy from are registered..

Currently, alcohol trade buyers are being asked by HMRC to review their supply chains to satisfy themselves that they are doing all that they can to only source genuine, tax-paid alcohol. As of 1 April 2017 it is anticipated that the use of the HMRC database of approved traders will form part of a buyer’s “due diligence” process.

There will be new criminal and civil sanctions for both wholesalers and trade buyers caught purchasing alcohol from non-registered wholesalers. Penalties for trade buyers will start from 1 April 2017. In addition, any alcohol found in the premises of an unregistered business may be seized, whether or not the duty has actually been paid.

As a firm, we have recently noticed a steep rise in the number of reviews of premises licences launched by the Police and Licensing Authorities in relation to alcohol fraud. Although it is some time off, this scheme will act as a further deterrent to those who seek to commit alcohol fraud.

Should you require any further information on this topic, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Chris Rees-Gay at chris@woodswhur.co.uk