Westminster City Council consults on updating its Gambling Policy

Westminster City Council has commenced consultations on:

  1. re-adoption of its current Gambling Policy (subject to minor updates where legislation or guidance has changed) so it will continue to have effect from the 31 January 2022 until such time as the proposed new Gambling Policy comes into effect; that consultation will close on 17 October 2021 and
  2. its intention to adopt a new Gambling Policy that “aims to protect people who may be vulnerable to gambling-related harm and gambling addiction”; that consultation will remain open until 28 November 2021.

You can download below the Council’s:

If adopted, the new Gambling Policy would set out zones where new gambling venues would be challenged on whether they will be suitable, based on their potential impact on local residents.

The Council has also produced a new standalone Local Area Profile for Gambling (‘LAP’) that you can download below. It states that this “can be reviewed regularly and updated when the data changes, without the need to carry out a statutory review of the Gambling Policy simultaneously” adding that, “as an independent but related document, this LAP is intended to provide applicants for new gambling licences and existing licensees with the relevant, local information for their risk assessment”.

In terms of such risk assessments, the Gambling Commission’s LCCP Social Responsibility code provision LCCP Social Responsibility Code provision 10.1.1 requires holders of non-remote (i.e. land-based) casino, adult gaming centre, bingo, family entertainment centre and betting premises to assess the local risks to the licensing objectives under the Gambling Act 2005 posed by the provision of gambling facilities at each of their premises, and to 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.

In addition, they must review (and update as necessary) their local risk assessments:

  • to take account of significant changes in local circumstances, including those identified in a licensing authority’s statement of licensing policy,
  • when there are significant changes at a licensee’s premises that may affect their mitigation of local risks,
  • when applying for a variation of a premises licence and,
  • in any case, undertake a local risk assessment when applying for a new premises licence.

Applicants for new such licences are similarly required to have policies, procedures and control measures in place in order to mitigate or eliminate such risks.

More information about such risk assessments can be found on the Gambling Commission’s website here.

In terms of Westminster Council’s LAP:

  • Section 1 of the LAP explains its purpose, noting that the Gambling Commission recommends that all local authorities create an LAP to “spatially assess the local environment, mapping areas of concern based on potential risks to gambling-related harm, or problem gambling”.
  • Section 2 explains Westminster’s approach to the LAP and how the document could be utilised by different stakeholders.
  • Section 3 situates Westminster within the national context and covers recent trends in problem gambling and related harm.
  • Section 4 covers the detail of Westminster’s methodology and weighting system, i.e. who is ‘vulnerable’ to gambling-related harm, which areas in the borough are of particular concern, and which data sources support these decisions.
  • Section 5 (Vulnerability Maps) spatially illustrates risk factors to gambling related harm such as financial stress and deprivation, homelessness, mental health, age and sex.
  • Section 6 (Location, Density and Cluster Maps) illustrates the prevalence, density and type of gambling venues, as well as where clusters of premises exist, thus increasing the risk of harm to high-risk or problem gamblers.

Commenting on the above, the Westminster City Council website states as follows:

Gambling Policy 2022

Westminster has a vibrant leisure industry and gambling venues, from large casinos to small arcades, play their part in making Westminster an attractive destination for visitors. The council recognises that good management of its gambling industry, including its impact on residents, amenities, and the local environment, is essential to the continued success of the city. The council expects licensed operators to demonstrate best practice by being responsible, open, inclusive, and equal operators. It also recognises that there are some people within Westminster who may be vulnerable to gambling-related harm or suffer from problem gambling.

Local Area Profile for gambling within Westminster

In assessing the potential risks to residents who may be at greater risk of gambling related harm the Council has produced a Local Area Profile for gambling within Westminster.  This document is intended to assist applicants in meeting the Council’s new Gambling Policy and to support residents and responsible authorities scrutinise applications for new or existing gambling premises.

We have produced a map that helps applicants, residents and other responsible authorities to view the locations of gambling premises, or where they are intended to be located within the City. This online tool should be considered alongside the Local Area Profile document.

Local Area Profile map for Gambling Risk within Westminster

Our proposed new Gambling Policy

Our Gambling Policy aims to ensure gambling is provided so as to achieve the licensing objectives of:

  • prevent gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder, or being used to support crime
  • ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
  • protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling

The key changes within our new policy include:

  • a new risk assessment policy setting out the expectations and requirements associated with the assessment of gambling related risks of operating a gambling premises
  • revised licensing objective policies that provide detailed requirements on applicants to ensure that their operation is reasonably consistent with licensing objectives
  • a new hours policy has been developed to specify the hours for gambling operations within the City.
  • three new spatial policies have been developed to focus the consideration of risks on the location and those who live, work and visitor the area to which a proposed gambling operation would relate
  • new premises use policies for each of the gambling premises providing a significant number of policies that focus on the key considerations associated with the operation and management of those premises
  • new policies associated with other gambling permissions, such as permits, notifications and registrations that provide greater detail on what applicants need to consider and put forward to obtain the relevant permission
  • new policies associated with incidents, complaints or non-compliance that create a formalised policy approach to post serious incident assessments, review of gambling premises, the cancellations of gaming machine permits and removal of automatic entitlements for gambling

Consultation

Westminster City Council is required to review and revise its Gambling Policy before the 30 January 2022 under the Gambling Act 2005.  However, we wish to consult widely on our proposed new policy.

Therefore, we are proposing to re-adopt our existing policy, subject to minor updates where legislation or guidance has changed so it will continue to have effect from the 31 January 2022 until such time as the proposed new Gambling Policy comes into effect. The consultation for the re-adoption of the current policy will close on the 17 October 2021.

The Council will also be consulting on its intention to adopt the proposed New Gambling Policy which will be open until the 28 November 2021.

Those wishing to respond to the consultation can do so by completing the Council’s short online questionnaires:

or by completing (and emailing back to the Council at licensingconsultation@westminster.gov.uk) paper forms below:


UPDATE: The Gambling Commission has commented as follows in its December 2021 Licensing Authority bulletin in relation to (a) local risk assessments & premises plans and (b) Westminster City Council’s Local Area Profile for Gambling Risk in its Local Authority area:

Local risk assessments and premises plans
A number of LAs have been in discussion with the Commission recently regarding local risk assessments (LRAs) and premises plans made available by operators.  It is useful to have developed your own Local Area Profile, as the story by Westminster Council below indicates.  However, it is not essential and may be disproportionate depending on the number of gambling premises in your area.

The Guidance to Licensing Authorities provides the information you require on both these subjects.  In short, the premises plan – if either a current one or in a new plan – only offer you an outline (eg. perimeter and exits) rather than machine locations, you should request a more detailed plan until such time as you are satisfied the Licensing Objectives are being protected.  Likewise, an operator is required to update their LRA when circumstances change in the local environment.

As part of your inspection regime it is not unreasonable to request a copy of the LRA – then check as to whether it is up to date and meets the need to be reflected in how the premises is being operated.

Local Area Profile for Gambling Risk in Westminster
As part of the Gambling Policy (2022) update, Westminster City Council has produced a Local Area Profile (LAP). This analyses and maps potential risks to gambling-related harm in Westminster by considering a range of health, economic and demographic indicators of vulnerability. We are also the only local authority to have produced an online, interactive mapping tool for use alongside the LAP.

Aims and objectives

The LAP helps the Council to understand gambling-related risk, assist applicants in meeting the Council’s Gambling Policy, and support residents and stakeholders to scrutinise applications for gambling premises. It is an innovative tool which democratises intelligence for the benefit of businesses, residents and Council officers:

  • Businesses can use the LAP and interactive map to identify suitable locations for premises and make better informed applications.
  • Residents can use the interactive map and feel reassured, through interventions like betting clusters, that further premises will not be allowed in vulnerable locations.
  • Westminster officers granting applications have a more comprehensive understanding of the local area and gambling-related risks.

Research methodology

The methodology builds on cutting-edge research from Geofutures, commissioned by the Council in 2016. It uses a range of Westminster data, the latest studies into gambling-related harm, and information from external experts to create a Gambling Vulnerability Index.

In the Index, risk factors (e.g. ‘youth’ or ‘debt’) are weighted based on the strength of evidence behind them. Relevant locations (e.g. youth centres or payday loan shops) are then mapped across Westminster. If an area contains multiple, overlapping risk factors, it becomes a Vulnerability Zone. Our LAP contains ‘at home’ and ‘away from home’ versions of the Vulnerability Index and maps, demonstrating our understanding as a Central London borough that residents, visitors, workers and students could all face potential risks.