Hot on the heels of news that amusement arcades are no longer to be permitted to re-open for business on 15 June 2020, the Gambling Commission has this afternoon published information for gambling operators re-opening land-based gambling premises. In short, operators can expect no leeway from their regulator.
This information will be of relevance for betting shops (that are still permitted to re-open on 15 June) and for other land-based gambling premises (including casinos, bingo clubs and now also adult gaming centres and family entertainment centres) that are presently anticipating they will be able to re-open on 4 July 2020.
The Commission’s above-mentioned information notification reads as follows:
As restrictions on the lockdown ease the Commission has published a number of frequently asked questions covering its expectations from land-based operators.
These FAQs are aimed at helping operators manage compliance with Government guidance on reopening with continued compliance with the Licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP).
The Commission is also reminding operators they are still expected to continue to follow Customer Interaction guidance as doors are reopened to consumers.
Frequently asked questions
Which premises can open from 29 June?
LBOs in England could open from 15 June. LBOs in Wales could open from 22 June and in Scotland from 29 June.
Are there any restrictions on LBOs opening?
LBOs in Scotland may open for the purpose of placing bets only. They may not provide chairs or televisions showing live races. All gambling machines should be switched off
LBOs in Wales must, during the emergency period:
- take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between any persons on the business premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer),
- take all reasonable measures to ensure that persons are only admitted to the business premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance, and
- take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between persons waiting to enter the business premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer).
When can other land based premises open?
AGCs, FECs and bingo premises in England can open from 4 July. See additional BACTA guidance here BACTA Re-opening of FECs and AGCs.
Do operators still have to meet all the Gambling Act and LCCP requirements?
Yes, there are no changes to operators’ obligations. We therefore expect operators to have confidence in their ability to be fully compliant with our requirements when they reopen. Where we find evidence of non-compliance, we will take swift action.
Will the Commission undertake premises-based assessments?
The Commission’s approach will support the following Government objectives as set out in guidance:
- To minimise the contact resulting from visits to stores or outlets
- To minimise the number of unnecessary visits to offices
- To minimise non-essential travel
This means that the Commission will look to obtain premises information by remote means. This includes requesting electronic data or recordings and where possible/necessary undertaking Skype meetings.
Will Licensing Authorities undertake premises-based assessments?
LA requirements remain the same. Individual LAs will undertake their own risk assessments and implement policies and procedures accordingly.
Who do I report my concerns to if I think government Covid-19 guidelines are not being followed correctly?
The Gambling Commission is not responsible for addressing breaches of Covid19 guidance. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE), Local Authorities, and local Police Forces (England & Wales only) have the relevant information on their websites.
General business risk assessment
Whilst not a requirement, we would expect operators to consider the risks posed to compliance with the Act, LCCP and associated guidance. As such we may seek evidence to support this.
Do operators need to review their premises [local] risk assessment(s)?
Operators may have to implement changes to manage social distancing and to protect staff and customers. Where these changes are significant, and could affect the mitigation of local risks, operators must review and where necessary update their risk assessments.
Do operators need to update their AML risk assessment?
Land based operators in the regulated sector are required to regularly review their AML risk assessments. Casinos are not reopening in June, but we would expect them to review the risks when they do. Operators in the unregulated sector are expected to review the risks and if required update any risk assessments.
What do operators need to consider if they are putting screens around machines for customer protection?
Operators must ensure that whatever measures they put in place to socially distance customers, staff can continue to supervise the premises, monitor customers behaviour for signs of gambling-related harm and monitor compliance with age-restrictions.
Do the social distancing rules mean customer interactions are suspended?
No. Operators must ensure that staff can and do undertake customer interactions that are meaningful and effective and that they comply with the LCCP and with our Customer Interaction guidance.
Do operators still need to undertake Age Verification (AV) check programs?
Operators are still required to undertake these programs. Suppliers (e.g. Serve Legal) could also be undertaking their own business risk assessments that may require changes to the process.
If customers are wearing PPE (facemasks), are operators still required to undertake AV checks?
Yes, Government guidance states that customers can be asked to remove their masks for AV checks. If customers refuse, then staff should follow operator guidance on refusing service.
If customers are wearing PPE (facemasks), are operators still required to enforce self-exclusions?
Yes. There are no changes to an operator’s responsibilities. Operators are expected to review their policies and procedures and to take a pragmatic approach.
Can operators move their gaming machines to allow for social distancing?
Where plans submitted to LA stipulate specific areas for machines (most likely betting shops) operators must contact the LA for advice first.
Can operators expand the use of TITO?
We expect full and proper supervision of these facilities, in particular the monitoring for potential money laundering or safer gambling issues. Operators must ensure that they can evidence appropriate controls when installing TITO and all gaming machines must comply with the relevant technical standards.
Can betting operators increase the number of SSBTs?
We expect full and proper supervision of these facilities. In particular the monitoring for potential money laundering or safer gambling issues. Provided operators can evidence appropriate controls when installing SSBTs, use can be expanded.
Can operators replace safer gambling messaging (posters/leaflets etc.) with social distancing/Covid 19 messaging?
Our guidance on the provision and display of information has not changed.
Will the Commission suspend test-purchasing?
We will continue to carry out test-purchasing to identify those that are operating unlawfully.
What will the Commission do about the period of time during which there were no test-purchase exercises?
We do not want operators to be disadvantaged and so we will be calculating results only for the periods during which premises are open.
Under the Covid 19 regulations does the 80/20 rule for gaming machines still apply?
Operators must still meet the rules abiding by the available for use guidance
What happens if staff will not or cannot undertake customer interactions due to social distancing or Covid 19 concerns?
Operators must ensure customer interactions take place. Staffing issues are a matter for individual operators, but our expectation is that they are confident in their abilities to meet all of our requirements, including customer interactions, when they reopen. Where we find evidence of non-compliance, we will take swift action.
What happens if a PML goes sick with C-19 or has to self-isolate?
Our expectation is that operators will have in place contingency plans. So long as this is the case, wherever possible the Commission will be flexible on arrangements.
1. You might also be interested in our subsequent website postings entitled:
- “Cashless payment technologies in land-based gambling premises: a reminder”,
- “BGC publishes “Non-remote casinos – Compliance with Covid-19 Secure Guidelines” and
- “GamCare publishes safer gambling tips for re-opening gambling premises after lockdown”.
2. As reported by us here, the Prime Ministerial Statement on COVID-19 (given on 23 June 2020 to the House of Commons) delivered unexpectedly adverse news for casinos that – for no obvious reason, given the work put into finalisation of its comprehensive “Non-remote casinos – Compliance with Covid-19 Secure Guidelines” to diminish “close proximity”, social distancing and hygiene concerns – must remain closed.
3. David Clifton’s “UK Casinos Post-Coronavirus” article for Casino Life magazine (published on 27 June 2020) provides a completely up to date account of the challenges facing English land-based casinos that had, prior to 23 June 2020, been expecting to be able to re-open for business on 4 July 2020.