No evidential case has been put forward to justify the introduction of cumulative impact policies for gambling outlets, says one licensing lawyer.

Nick Arron, Poppleston Allen

Such policies for gambling premises, movement of dormant casino licences, changes to casino and bingo machines and card and cashless options for gaming machines could all be on the cards when the UK’s Gambling Act 2005 review is finally unveiled.

These were the predictions of Nick Arron, a partner at Poppleston Allen, who presented the Gambling Update session at the Institute of Licensing’s National Training Conference 2022.

Arron told delegates that the industry was particularly concerned about the possible introduction of cumulative impact policies, which the Local Government Association and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners have been lobbying for.

“While these may be appropriate for alcohol premises due to the effect of large numbers of people drinking and all leaving closing premises at the same time, there hasn’t been an evidential case put forward as to how they can be justified in relation to gambling premises,” Arron said.

“And as it stands the ‘aim to permit’ principle within the Gambling Act 2005 does not allow for it.”

Arron described other potential outcomes of the review on land-based operators, citing the possibility that dormant casino licences could become portable and transferred to different licensing authorities.

He added that another potential boost could come from operators being allowed to use debit cards and more cashless solutions for gaming machines. The inability of land-based operators to offer customers the same payment options as online operators has long been a source of frustration, but the issue became even more pronounced during the pandemic.

Arron told the conference’s audience that the land-based industry was recovering steadily from the pandemic, citing Gambling Commission figures that showed that the in-person gambling participation rate had risen in the year to this March compared with the previous year.

He added that while betting shops were continuing to close, they were doing so at a lower rate than in previous years.

He noted that it was online that continued to drive the market, although stated that the growth seen during the pandemic had fallen back and stabilised as land-based venues reopened.

However, online operators could face strong headwinds if some of the rumours floated about the much-delayed white paper prove true.

Arron said other "big ticket" changes that could come about as a result of the review included limits on stakes and prizes online, affordability checks and the introduction of a gambling ombudsman.