Gambling Bill

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Mr. Moss: With reference to the Minister's explanation of the wording relating to administration, we did not seek to weaken the Bill. We tried to introduce an amendment that was more specific and accurate than the provision. Having listened to the Minister's arguments, I will be happy to withdraw amendment No. 82. In light of his comments on amendment No. 41, we are pleased also that the obvious error is to be rectified. We will bring other obvious errors to his attention as we go through the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Caborn: I just want to put on the record what this part of the Bill stands for. One key concept in the Bill is the provision of facilities for gambling. That provision triggers the application of the regulatory requirement of the Bill. The requirement to hold an operating licence or a premises licence is generally triggered when the person is providing facilities for gambling. It is fundamentally important that the concept of providing facilities for gambling is correctly defined. Too narrow a definition will leave commercial gambling operations outside the scope of effective regulation; too wide a definition will unnecessarily draw in activities that pose no real risk to the licensing objectives set out in clause 1.

The clause strikes the right balance. In particular, it catches commercial gambling operators, and those who provide services to the operator and are themselves directly involved in the arrangements for gambling. It does not catch services that are provided equally and equivalently to companies irrespective of whether their business involves gambling or gardening.

9.45 am

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): I apologise to the Committee for hobbling around; I have a very painful knee.

Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath, I am sorry to make the Minister return to the vexed subject of subsection (2)(b), but I want to read it out again:

    ''providing, otherwise than in the course of providing''.

Whether or not that follows the 1968 Act, surely we are in the business of trying to improve the wording? I suggest that it would be much better to leave the phrase out and simply say, ''or in the course of providing''. I seriously ask the Minister, with his officials, to consider that form of wording and to see whether an amendment that is more sensible can be tabled on Report.

Mr. Caborn: I have some sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman said about plain English, but bit by bit we are getting there. I want to make it clear that what we include in the Bill is there for a purpose. Sometime we could do a little better with the wording, and the use of the English language, than we do at the moment. All that I can say is that the wording does what we want it to do. Whether it could have been simplified a little more is open to question. I hear what

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the hon. Gentleman says, but at this point in the proceedings I am afraid that I cannot accede to his request. If my officials have been listening, and we can achieve the same meaning with clearer or plainer English, we will endeavour to do that. I assure him that, from time to time, I send back some of the notes that my officials give me, because even I do not understand them, so I do not think that hon. Members will.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6

Gaming and Game of chance

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 86, in

    clause 6, page 3, line 6, leave out 'a prize' and insert 'winnings'.

The clause deals with gaming and games of chance and gives us some definitions in that regard. Currently, the difference between the definition of ''winnings'' under section 51(1) of the 1968 Act and ''prizes'' relates to the accepted definition of a lottery. That was defined in a law case—Readers Digest Association Ltd v. Williams—in 1967. We therefore believe that the definition should refer to ''winnings'' rather than ''a prize''. Reference to gaming as meaning

    ''playing a game of chance for a prize'',

rather than winnings, will certainly cause some uncertainty about whether an activity is gaming or a lottery. That might lead to litigation.

This is a probing amendment. We want clarification and we want to know not only that the Bill takes on board previous litigation and law cases, but that its wording will not cause any uncertainty.

Mr. Caborn: The amendment proposes a change to the definition of gaming in the clause. It tries to reintroduce a concept from the 1968 Act in a manner that undermines the regulation of gaming in the Bill. In section 52 of the 1968 Act, gaming is defined as playing a game of chance for winnings. That set up a scheme whereby gaming for prizes was regulated differently from gaming for winnings. In recent times, that has led to a thoroughly unintended consequence: the use of section 21 of the 1968 Act to provide machine gaming for prizes. This Bill regulates all gaming, whether for winnings or prizes, under a unified definition in clause 6. The industry asked us to do away with the antiquated distinction that controls the minutiae of the types of rewards offered, which we have done. Particular allowances are needed for prize gaming, and those are set out in part 13. The amendment would separate gaming for prizes so that it does not come under the regulation of gaming, which cannot be sensible. Gaming includes gaming for prizes and must be regulated through licensing and permits.

On the hon. Gentleman's point about lotteries, we have different definitions of prizes for lotteries and for gaming. Therefore, I ask him to withdraw the amendment.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): The Minister's response included the words ''prizes'' and

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''winnings''. In view of observations that there could be confusion about which is which, would the simple remedy not be to add the phrase ''a prize or winnings''? Then, there could be no doubt over what we are talking about.

Mr. Caborn: My notes tell me to look at subsection (5), which the hon. Gentleman should look at. We believe that—[Hon. Members: ''Roll over now.''] I will wait for my next piece of paper.

Bob Russell: I am trying to bring a layman's common-sense approach to the law and be helpful. The words ''or winnings'' covers everything.

Mr. Caborn: Subsection 6(5)(b) includes both ''prizes'' and ''winnings''. It states:

    ''including both a prize provided by a person organising gaming and winnings of money staked.''

That clearly defines the Bill's intention in terms of the law.

Mr. Moss: I am happy with the Minister's explanation, as defined in subsection (5)(b). Perhaps we should concede that we did not read that as carefully as we might have. It is one-all so far this morning. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Moss: I beg to move amendment No. 87, in

    clause 6, page 3, line 13, leave out sub-paragraph (iii).

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 77, in

    clause 6, page 3, line 13, after 'chance', insert

    'except skill with price machines'.

Amendment No. 88, in

    clause 6, page 3, line 14, after 'sport' insert 'or a lottery.'

Amendment No. 132, in

    clause 6, page 3, line 29, leave out subsection (6).

Amendment No. 90, in

    clause 6, page 3, line 29, after 'activity' insert

    'other than a game of skill'.

Amendment No. 103, in

    clause 6, page 3, line 30, after 'activity', insert

    'other than a game of skill'.

Mr. Moss: I shall not be speaking to amendment No. 77. I apologise for not asking that it be deleted from the amendment paper.

Amendment No. 87 would leave out sub-paragraph (iii). The sub-paragraph is superfluous because the involvement of an element of chance should be objective—it either is or is not a game of chance. We are not sure why the words

    ''is presented as involving an element''

are included. They dilute the clause; it would be stronger if they were left out, because we accept that gaming involves an element of chance.

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At present, a bingo-type ticket on a video screen, where the card is automatically marked and the participant wins a prize, is considered to be a lottery and not gaming. Amendment No. 88 would clarify that that will continue to be the case, by providing that a game of chance does not include a lottery, and by ensuring that lottery provisions are addressed separately.

Amendment No. 90, would insert the phrase:

    ''other than a game of skill''.

Pure games of skill are not intended to come within the scope of the Bill and amendment No. 90 clarifies that. Amendment No. 103 inserts the same phrase—

The Chairman: In a different place.

Mr. Moss: Thank you, Mr. Pike.

Mr. Hawkins: I rise not only to support my hon. Friend's amendments, but to speak to my amendment No. 132. I wanted to probe two matters. First, one concern, which is widely shared by many commentators, is that the Bill leaves far too much open to the Secretary of State to make subsequent secondary legislation. We do not know what those regulations will look like. That was touched on in some of our debates on Tuesday.

Several Opposition Members have said that we hope that the Government will at least agree to provide some drafts of what they have in mind. It is a great deal easier for any parliamentary Committee to consider the detail and for those who may be investing to make informed decisions if they know not only what the Bill will look like when it reaches the statute book, but what the secondary legislation might be. We all know that, in practice, not as much parliamentary scrutiny is given to subsequent regulations. There are short statutory instrument debates that often—far too often in my view—go through almost on the nod. With such a major reform of gaming legislation, where the Government are seeking to write a blank cheque and say that they will flesh out the bones and add the details later in regulations, we need to know, people in industry need to know and people in towns and cities across the land need to know, what those regulations will look like.

 
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