Exchange of letters between the Acting Clerk of
the Deregulation Committee and the Home Office
Letter from the Acting Clerk of the Deregulation
Committee to the Home Office (dated 6 April 2001)
Proposal for the Deregulation (Bingo and Other
Gaming) Order 2001
The Deregulation Committee of the House of Commons
began its consideration of the above proposal last week, immediately
after the proposal was laid. Following more detailed scrutiny
of the papers submitted, including the responses to your consultation
exercise, I am now instructed to raise a small number of questions
1. Proposal 1: Notification of charges:
The Committee has noted the contention of the Home Office that
"The notification requirement has been found to serve no
useful purpose", and that consultees have generally supported
The Committee would nonetheless be grateful for
an explanation of why the provision was originally inserted in
section 14 of the 1968 Act - what protection did the original
provision seek to secure, and why is that protection no longer
2. Proposal 2: Mix of gaming machines:
GamCare in their submission welcomed the Code of Conduct agreed
between the Gaming Board and the Bingo Association regarding the
admission of minors so long as it is "effectively carried
out". The Explanatory Document states that the Code of Conduct
"should act as an effective safeguard against the use of
gaming machines in bingo clubs by children and young people"
and refers to the fact that there should be "notices and
staff training to ensure that this is adhered to".
The Committee is concerned about the need to retain
proper protection for children and young people, particularly
in view of GamCare's claim that "some operators have been
negligent in excluding children from gambling areas".
The Committee would therefore welcome rather more
information about how the Code of Conduct is intended to be policed
and enforced, and what if any will be the consequences or penalties
for those concerned if it is not so enforced, including those
clubs which are not members of the Association and therefore not
party to the Code of Conduct.
3. Consultation: The Committee note that
only about a quarter of those consulted responded to the consultation
exercise, and that all were generally supportive of all three
proposals. The Committee are somewhat concerned however that the
consultation paper does not seem to have been issued to organisations
with a specific concern for the interests of children and young
people (such as the YMCA, the teaching unions or social services
departments) and seems to have been issued to only what appears
to have been an arbitrary selection of church and other religious
organisations (eg neither the Church of England, nor organisations
representing minority faiths, appear to have been consulted) which
might also have concerns in this area. The Committee note also
the concern of the Police Federation about both young people and
other vulnerable groups (such as the aged) "who may well
be tempted to gamble beyond their, in some cases, meagre means".
The Committee would be grateful for an explanation
of the rationale behind the original list of consultees and for
information about what steps if any have been taken to ascertain
the views of religious organisations and organisations concerned
with the welfare of children and young people, and the aged, who
were not part of the formal consultation procedure.
Future changes in the law:
The Deregulation Committee has previously expressed its concern
about what appears to be the piecemeal approach of the Home Office
to the reform of licensing and gambling law by means of the 1994
Act procedure, a concern raised by some of the consultees in this
exercise (such as Camelot). The Committee also note that a further
consultation (under Regulatory Reform Act procedures) has been
commenced in relation to Gaming Machines: Methods of Payment.
The Committee would welcome an explanation of
why the Home Office consider these relatively small changes to
be of sufficient importance to be proceeded with ahead of the
outcome of the wider review of gaming and gambling (due, we understand,
to report in autumn 2001), and whether this piecemeal approach
is likely in the long run to contribute to greater coherence and
clarity in this area of the law.
I would be grateful for a reply to this letter (by
e-mail or fax if necessary) not later than Tuesday 24 April.
I am copying this to the Clerk of the Delegated Powers
and Deregulation Committee in the House of Lords, and to the Regulatory
Letter from the Home office to the Acting Clerk
of the Deregulation Committee (dated 24 April 2001)
Proposal for the Deregulation (Bingo and other
Gaming) Order 2001
Thank you for your letter of 6th April.
2. The Committee has posed four questions. First,
it asks about the original purpose of section 14(4)(b) of the
Gaming Act 1968, which the draft Deregulation Order seeks to repeal.
3. Section 14(4)(b) requires bingo clubs to give
the licensing authority 14 days notice of changes in their charges
to players. Our understanding from the official Notes on Clauses
to the 1968 Act is that it was intended 'partly by way of information
partly to facilitate enforcement and to inhibit too frequent alterations'
in the charges. That may have reflected concern about clubs possibly
levying arbitrary or excessive charges on players. However the
licensing authority does not have, and never has had, any power
to amend bingo clubs' charges to players or to delay changes to
4. The charges to players are of two kinds
charges for admission, and charges for playing the game. Bingo
clubs must display these charges to players on the premises and
at the point where the charge is made, in other words at or near
the principal entrance, in the case of the entry fee, and at the
main pay-point or points inside the club, in the case of the charges
for playing the game.
5. The Committee will find these requirements
set out in the Gaming Clubs (Hours and Charges) (Amendment) Regulations
2000 (SI No 899), made under sections 14 and 51 of the 1968 Act.
These Regulations also set out the maximum fees which clubs can
charge to players. As we have explained in our consultation document
on this draft Order (paragraphs 2.2 to 2.4) the arrangements for
these charges which are set out in last year's Regulations are
considerably simpler than those which applied before.
6. We consider that the Regulations provide adequately
for enforcement. In practice, clubs rarely if ever impose the
maximum charges which the Regulations allow. But if some club
were to exceed these limits, that would quickly become apparent
on routine inspection by the Gaming Board, even if it had not
already been detected by the players themselves. The Board would
then require that the club reduce its charges if it declined
to do so, then it would be acting unlawfully and the future of
its licence under the Gaming Acts would be at issue.
7. The Home Office takes the view that it is
not the role of the law to 'inhibit too frequent changes' in the
charges which clubs make. That must be a matter for their own
commercial judgement, so long as the charges which they are making
on any particular occasion are as the law requires
made apparent to players. It will then be for the players themselves
to decide whether they want to pay these charges.
8. Consultation has revealed no objections to
our proposal to repeal section 14(4)(b). The Gaming Board have
told us that licensing authorities throughout Great Britain rarely
if ever make use of the information which 14(4)(b) requires clubs
to supply to them.
9. The Committee have asked for more information
about the Code of Conduct agreed between the Gaming Board and
the Bingo Association which requires that any under-18's who are
allowed into bingo clubs are not permitted to use any gaming machine.
10. This requirement was added to the Code of
Conduct last year, following discussions between the Board and
the Association. The Association, which represents about 75% of
all licensed clubs, told its members about the change in July
2000 and has since disseminated it to them by way of changes to
the Code as printed in its Bingo Managers' Handbook.
11. The Code of Conduct applies to all bingo
clubs whether members of the Association or not. Gaming Board
Inspectors police the requirements of the Code as part of their
routine inspections of all bingo clubs and they would bring them
to the notice of any operator who did not comply with them.
12. As our consultation document explains (paragraph
3.15) the law does not prevent people under 18 from entering a
bingo club or from playing gaming machines there (though they
may not play bingo). In practice, most bingo clubs do not admit
under-18's to their premises at all, but there is currently no
statutory bar to their allowing children to play on gaming machines.
13. To that extent, the introduction of the requirement
in the Code of Conduct represents a clear advance over the situation
which existed previously. The Home Office welcomes it as such
even though it has no statutory force.
14. The part of the bingo industry most at risk
of non-compliance with this aspect of the Code is clubs in holiday
camps, where there will always be a lot of children in the vicinity
by the very nature of the site. We understand from the Gaming
Board that their inspectors have not since the agreement come
across any examples of children playing gaming machines in bingo
clubs, either at holiday camps or anywhere else.
15. Question 3 asks about the rationale behind
the list of consultees, in particular about consulting religious
organisations and groups concerned with the welfare of children,
young people, and the aged.
16. The recipients to whom we sent the consultation
document on its publication on 6 November 2000 included the Church
of England Board for Social Responsibility, the Baptist and Methodist
Churches, the Salvation Army, the Society of Friends (Quakers)
and the Scottish Churches Council. At the end of November we also
sent copies to the Presbyterian Church of Wales, the Board of
Mission of the Church of Wales, and the United Reformed Church
National Synod of Wales.
17. The Committee are right to point out that
we did not specifically consult representatives of other faiths,
although the document was published on our website. The responses
which we received included only one from a religious group (the
United Reformed Church National Synod of Wales) and wider consultation
might have produced others.
18. Our consultation list did not contain any
organisations specifically concerned with the welfare of children
or the elderly. But the impact of gambling opportunities on these
groupsespecially children and young peopleis an
issue on which some of those whom we did consult, for instance
GamCare, Dr Sue Fisher, and the Society for the Study of Gambling,
are leading commentators.
19. Our proposals do not include any diminution
of the controls on young people and gambling.
20. The Committee asks why the Home Office considers
that the changes in the draft Order are important enough to be
proceeded with ahead of the completion of the current overall
Review of gambling controls. It also asks whether amending successive
parts of the legislation by Deregulation Order in this way is
likely to improve the coherence and clarity of the law.
21. We anticipate that the overall review of
the controls, chaired by Sir Alan Budd, will report to the Home
Secretary within the next few weeks. As we have said in our consultation
document, the Government considers that the proposals in the current
draft Order are justified on their merits and that they will not
cut across the work of the Review. They will result in immediate
benefits for the bingo industry, and need not await the enactment
of comprehensive legislation on gambling in the light of Sir Alan
Budd's report. The draft Order will also remove an entirely unnecessary
and redundant administrative burden from licensing authorities.
22. Of the three changes proposed in the draft
Order, one (the repeal of Section 14(4)(b) of the Gaming Act 1968)
will in our view simplify the law. Another (the amendments proposed
to section 1(1)(c) of the Gaming (Bingo) Act 1985) will have no
effect on complexity its effect is to turn references to
a 'prize' into references to a 'prize or prizes'.
23. The third proposal in the Order will make
a substantial change to the Gaming Act 1968, in particular to
its section 32. The provisions about gaming machines in Part III
of the 1968 Act, including Section 32, are already difficult to
follow and we would not argue with the Committee's proposition
that this change adds a further layer of complexity to the statute
24. But we think that this is justified in the
circumstances. While the statute book itself may be more difficult
to follow, the overall effect of the law will not be.