House of Commons
|Session 2006 - 07|
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Public Bill Committee Debates
Draft Gambling Act 2005 (Mandatory and Default Conditions) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Keith Neary, Committee Clerk
attended the Committee
First Delegated Legislation Committee
Monday 26 March 2007
[Miss Anne Begg in the Chair]
Draft Gambling Act 2005 (Mandatory and Default Conditions) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007
That the Committee has considered the draft Gambling Act 2005 (Mandatory and Default Conditions) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to consider the draft Gambling Act 2005 (Exclusion of Children from Track Areas) Order 2007.
Mr. Caborn: I am grateful to have the opportunity to debate these two important statutory instruments. They are among a number that my Department is publishing in preparation for the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005 from 1 September 2007. We are making good progress. The Gambling Commission is open for business and is taking applications for operating licences. We are working closely with the commission and the gambling industry to encourage operators to submit applications for their new licenses in time to benefit from the continuation rights that we have engineered into the system. As an aside, I hope that that is supported by the Committee and more widely, and that the message will go out to our constituents.
All the regulations dealing with the premises licensing were published in February. As a result, the licensing authorities have a full three months to prepare before they start taking applications for licences on 21 May. I am pleased to say that the Government have met their commitment in full.
The two statutory instruments before the Committee deal with two aspects of premises licensing. The draft regulations cover the mandatory and default conditions that will be attached to the premises licence, and the draft order provides an exemption to allow children and young people into areas where betting facilities are provided on tracks on days when sporting events are taking place.
The Gambling Act allows three kinds of conditions to be attached to gambling premises licencesmandatory, default and individual. Mandatory conditions are imposed by the Secretary of State under the regulations. Some apply to all types of gambling premises, such as the requirement to display a summary of the terms and conditions of the licence in a prominent place on the premises. Others are specific to a type of premises, such as the requirement that casinos cannot offer more than 40 separate player positions at automated gaming tables.
The default conditions, too, are imposed by the Secretary of State under the regulations, but licensing authorities may adjust them to reflect local circumstances if necessary. The only default conditions to have been included so far are opening hours for gambling premises. As far as we can, we have tried to standardise the hours, but operators might choose not to open for the whole of the time allowed and the licensing authorities can adjust the hours if it is deemed necessary.
The regulations do not set out individual conditions. Those will be imposed by licensing authorities to reflect local conditions and circumstances.
At first glance, it might appear that the regulations introduce many licensing conditions.
Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): The Minister refers to the conditions that can be imposed by local authorities. He will recall that during the passage through the House of the Bill that became the Gambling Act 2005, we had a lengthy debate about nuisance. Although nuisance is not covered by the regulations, will he assure me that it will be something in relation to which a local authority can set individual conditions?
Mr. Caborn: Yes, I think so. That could be done in a number of ways, including through the premises license and through the local authoritys statement on gambling. We would expect the local authority to take account of representations made by an area. Even if grandfather rights were requested, I think that those conditions would need to be imposed for such localities when taking cognisance of the new regulations. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.
I re-emphasise that it might seem that we have introduced a lot of conditions, but many of them replicate requirements already in place under other legislationfor example, the need for separate, properly supervised, over-18s areas that contain category C machines in bingo halls, family entertainment centres or on tracks. All those conditions were the subject of intensive informal and formal consultation with the gambling industry, licensing authorities and community groups.
Perhaps I may digress for a couple of minutes. The Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments in another place has scrutinised the order. It is surprising that in the report on the Gambling (Geographical Distribution of Casino Premises Licences) Order 2007, which will be debated in the House on Wednesday, the Committee suggests that greater emphasis should have been placed on minimisation of harm from gambling. However, that was never the intention in relation to that order, and it was not a primary consideration that we set the casino advisory panel.
I raise the matter only because through this Committee we are now putting in place a very clear regulation with respect to potential harm to punters. It underlies our commitment, through the principles of the Act, to protecting the vulnerable and children, to keeping gambling crime-free, and to ensuring that there will be a fair bet. The regulations will give the Gambling Commission and local authorities the powers to do what we said at
As I have said, the provisions are designed to ensure that the management of each type of gambling premises reflects the three licensing objectives. I remind the Committee that the new licensing objectives are to prevent gambling from being a source of crime or disorder; to ensure that gambling is conducted fairly and openly; and to protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
The licensing authorities will be responsible for ensuring that gambling operators comply with the premises licensing conditions. They will do that by checking the plan of the premises that is submitted with the licence application and by way of visits to the premises. This is an effective package of conditions that will work well in practice, and will ensure that the licensing objectives are met. The Government believe that the conditions will be straightforward for licensing authorities to monitor, and will not place an unreasonable burden on the industry.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Will the Minister explain what would happen if there were a disagreement between the Gambling Commission and local authorities on a particular regulation? Who would ultimately prevail?
Mr. Caborn: If it was about the premises licence it would be the responsibility of the local authority. There are very clearly defined responsibilities. The premises licence is a matter for the local authority; the other licences are the responsibility of the Gambling Commission. There is a clear division of responsibility between the two.
By way of explanation, we are giving considerable licensing responsibilities to local authorities, whether on liquor licensing or gambling. We are taking those responsibilities from magistrates and allocating them clearly to local authorities, with a view to their now licensing the leisure economy, which in many areas is very important to the general economy. That is the right approach, and the regulations are another piece of the jigsaw.
The draft order before the Committee extends to all other tracks an exemption that is already in place for horse racing and dog racing tracks. That means that children and young people will be allowed into the areas where betting facilities are provided on days when sporting events are taking place. That is a practical provision reflecting the fact that gambling facilities are now widely available at sporting tracks. It would be difficult, and in the Governments view unnecessary, for track operators to prevent children and young people from entering the areas where betting happens. It would not be fair to expect sporting tracks to do that when horse racing and dog racing tracks do not have to. Young people go to those venues to watch the sport, not to gamble. We are satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards to prevent children and young people from placing bets at the tracks.
I thank the Minister for his assurances that the regulations are designed to fulfil the three objectives of the Gambling Act 2005, but there is continuing concern about the social and economic impact, and the impact generally, of making gambling more widely available. The aim of the 2005 Act was to regulate gambling; the concern of the public is that it will stimulate gambling. There are also concerns about the potentially negative impact of gambling, which does not necessarily show itself in the form of antisocial behaviour and nuisance on the streets.
Mr. Caborn: I want to nail once and for all the claim about the Government extending the opportunity to gamble. The Budd report was commissioned to consider the new phenomenon that we had seen with ICT development and the ability to pass information round the world electronically. The Government and the House had no powers under the Gaming Act 1968 to control internet and remote gambling. The essence of the Budd report was to consider how we, as a responsible Parliament and Government, could intervene to protect the publicto protect the vulnerable, to keep gambling crime-free and to ensure that people had a fair bet.
That was the underlying reason for the Budd report, which was followed by legislation. That is why we put the 2005 Act on the statute bookto get powers that we did not have as a Parliament or Government. It was not so that Government could extend the opportunity to gamble; it was so that we could benefit from consideration by eminent persons such as Budd and his commission.
Anne Milton: I thank the Minister for his intervention, but I was not referring to remote or internet gambling. In fact, I think that the discussion about internet gambling and remote gambling will go on for some time. I appreciate that the Government have precious few powers to do anything about the regulation of internet gambling and I think that that will continue to be a problem and a concern for many people.
I was talking about the hidden social and economic impact of gambling, which will not necessarily show itself in the way problems arising from licensing do. I would like to say how much I have welcomedI am sure that the Minister would agree with methe tremendous input not only into the Act, but into these regulations by people who have taken a sensible and measured approach. Groups such as the Evangelical Alliance would not automatically want to support this type of activity, but have been quite pragmatic and measured in their responses.
Most of the provisions of the regulations relate to the conditions of licensing for premises operating casinos, but there are still concerns about the pilot regional casino. Although it is not specifically addressed in these measures, I feel that I must ask the Minister for assurances about the pilot scheme. He has, in response to a question from me, said that it will last for three years, but the full social and economic impact
I know that door supervision was discussed before I became an MP, but there are concerns, particularly in relation to arcades, about how much supervision there will be on the doors of casinos. As the Minister said, it is crucial that we do not allow children to gamble. The checking done by casino operators on the doors will therefore be vital, and there is particular concern in relation to arcades when the flow of people in and out of the casinos is far more rapid and there is far more volume.
It is sensible that children will have freer access to race courses, but again we need to be assured that there will be adequate checks on the race courses to ensure that children are not able to place bets.
The regulations give local authorities some discretion, but there is concern arising from the operation of the Licensing Act 2003. Some lessons from that Act could be applied when we consider how much consultation and real community involvement is needed on the opening hours of the casinos. I know that the Government are consulting on that at present. The mandatory conditions will allow gambling for 23 hours a day. The casinos will have to close at 6 am, but at 7 am, after an hours break, people can go to the bookies. The Minister defended his position, but the concern remains that the conditions will stimulate rather than regulate gambling. Local community involvement is vital, and there are issues about who will be consulted, how they will be consulted and how much notice there will be of the consultation. Although that is not dealt with in the regulations, some reassurance from the Minister would be welcome at this stage.
I shall not go on too long. We have three hours for the debate, Miss Begg, but I do not want to keep members of the Committee here any longer than necessary, as it is such a lovely dayalthough I am sure that they would much rather look at it from inside than be outside themselves.
The Chairman: Order. Perhaps I should point out there is only one and a half hours for the debate, as the Committee agreed to take the regulations and the order together.
Anne Milton: Thank you, Miss Begg, for correcting me. This is my first appearance on a Committee in this position, so I am anxious to be on my feet as long as possibleno, do not worry, do not all go pale at the thought.
There are provisions that we welcome. Obviously, we welcome the fact that automated teller machines will be separate from the gambling areas, and that there will be chill-out areas. There are concerns, and we are in uncharted territory. The Evangelical Alliance talked about non-return valves. It is fine to drift from the gambling areas to the cinema and other entertainment facilities, but can one drift from non-gambling areasthe cinema, for instanceinto gambling areas?
In summary, I urge the Minister to keep the regulations under consideration. We are in completely uncharted territory. We do not know what the social and economic impact or regenerative benefits of the casinos will be. That will become clearer when they get their licences, are built and start operating. I hope that the Minister will assure us that he will keep the matter under review and close watch.
Mr. Foster: I, too, intend to be incredibly brief, having only three points to raise with the Minister. First, I thank him and his officials for providing in the detailed notes such a welter of information on the regulations and the order. However, the notes tell us that they apply to the 170 existing casinos, among other things. I know that the Minister is well aware of the lengthy debates that we had two years ago about the number of existing casinos. Given that we eventually concluded that there were 139 at that time, I would be grateful if he could tell us where the additional casinos are located, as that information would be particularly helpful to us during our deliberations on Wednesday.
Mr. Caborn: I am thankful for notice of the question for Wednesday, to which I shall be able to give an exact answer. The formula is simple. I believe that there are now 137 casinostwo have closedbut I will check the facts. As the hon. Gentleman knows, applications for casino licences under the old regime of the 1968 Act finished in, I think, April last year. However, a number of licence applications that had not been taken up could still be taken up over a given period of timethe figure could be anything from zero to possibly 40, but I will check that for the record. On top of the current figure, which is I think 137, there will be an additional 17 casinos. I do not know the exact figure, but I have notice of the question and will ensure that the answer is available for the debate on the Floor of the House on Wednesday.
Mr. Foster: I am most grateful to the Minister for that helpful reply. Unfortunately, it is not entirely correct.
Mr. Foster: If you will allow me, Miss Begg, I will tell the Committee that 90 applications were made and a number of applicants had their premises licence rejected by the local authority. Currently, 68 applicationsnot 40are outstanding that could come into play under the existing legislation. That is a marked contradiction to the Ministers clear statement during the passage of the Bill that the maximum number of casinos we could have was 150. I will, no doubt, raise that matter on Wednesday.
Mr. Foster: I am happy to give way again, but I just want to say to the Minister that this is a matter of simple factual information that would be of assistance
Mr. Caborn: We will get that information for hon. Membersthere is no problem with that. The hon. Gentleman said that there are 68 licences, which there are, but they are clearly contained within permitted areas so it is difficult to assess how market forces will come into play inside the permitted areas defined under the 1968 Act. There will be a saturation of casinos in the permitted areas because of the geographical restrictions, so the reality is that numbers will come down considerably from the figure of 68. Two casinos have already closed because of intense competition inside the permitted areas, which will no longer exist under the 2005 Act. The 68 licences were allowed only inside the permitted areas and there would be a massive over-supply if all those were built. That is why I am confident that many will not be built.
Mr. Foster: I suspect that the Minister is correct, bearing in mind that a number of those who have made an application have not even gone as far as obtaining a premises licence from the local authority within, as the Minster rightly says, the limited number of designated areas. However, my point referred specifically to paragraph 5.1 of the explanatory notes that says that the main existing businessesnot new or anticipated businesses
to be affected will be: around 170 casinos.
I hope that the Minster will acknowledge that that information is incorrect.
I was absolutely delighted that the Minister agreed that a range of other issues relating to the controls that many people would want on gambling premises was debated in the Committee on the Gambling Bill and elsewhere. Such controls could be introduced by the local authority. The various conditions mentioned in the regulations are by no means exhaustive, and through statements and premises licence conditions local authorities will have the opportunity to add others. That is why it is important that the hon. Member for Wellingborough raised the issue of potential conflicts between the responsible bodies and I am grateful to him for doing so.
The Minister said to the hon. Member for Guildford that the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, which studied the order that we will consider on Wednesday, was, in effect, wrong to suggest that insufficient attention had been given to preventing problem gambling. The hon. Lady was right to raise that issue because although the conditions proposed are, in the main, welcomethere is one exception that I will come tothey are not the full panoply of measures that were discussed during the passage of the Gambling Bill. I am grateful to hear that additional measures may be brought in by a body other than the Government, but it is not the Government who are bringing them in.
The Minister will recall how we suggested that clocks should be made available in full view of everyone playing on gaming machines because there was clear evidence that people lose track of time and continue to play for too long. He will recall our lengthy debate on some of the practices that we understood took place. I have no idea whether this is entirely true, but we understood that, in a number of the large American casinos, certain hormones were pumped in which made people continue to play.
Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): I thank the hon. Gentleman for Bath for yet again elucidating matters for the Committee and structuring this exegesis on the evils of gambling. If he proposes to bring before the Committee a carefully crafted amendment delineating the precise size and power of the chiming strike of such a clock, let him do so. Otherwise, if he wishes to suggest that a clock should be present, it could be of the most minuscule type. Finally, could he tell the Committee what possible sort of airborne hormones could stimulate gambling? I thought that I had lived a full and rich life, but I have never come across that before.
Mr. Foster: I knew it would be worth giving way to the hon. Gentleman. As ever, he gives a great deal of thought to these matters. Unfortunately there is one small lacuna in his immense knowledge. He obviously has not had the opportunity to re-readI am sure he read them at the timeour deliberations in Committee on what is now the Gambling Act 2005. If he did he would find quite a lot of detail about both things. Discussions took place on the size of the clock, but in relation to the smells, I was about to say what I understood them to be. I then realised that the excellent Hansard reporters would pass me a note and ask me to spell this particular product. I have made three attempts to write down the word pheromones. I am told that that is the stuff sprayed into the air, but I do not know how to spell it.
There has been debate about this[ Interruption. ] No, the Minister must take precedence. He is going to tell us about clocks.
Mr. Caborn: I am not going to talk about clocks. I want to go back to a very important point that was made which is germane to this discussion and to the debate later this week on the Floor of the House. It concerns the conclusions of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments and what I believe was a misinterpretation of what the casino advisory panel was asked to do.
In December 2004, the Government issued a statement on casino policy, which clearly said that an independent panel would be set up to identify a range of areas that would provide the best test of social impact. Much of our discussion before that policy statement was made was about whether to give that responsibility to the Gambling Commission. It was decided not to give it to the commission because it was to police the operation of the policy to make sure that the conditions laid down in the Act were carried through. Unfortunately, some people have now misinterpreted what happened. The casino advisory panel was created to look at 17 areas that were
Mr. Foster: I shall carry on in order to give the Minister an opportunity to read the rather voluminous brief that has been passed to him.
I hope that we will have a chance to debate the matter on Wednesday. I disagree with a number of things that the Minister said. He refers to the statement that he made on 16 or 11 Decemberindeed, the Committee adjourned to enable him to make it. He will be aware of the deliberations that followed that statement and, indeed, to the comments that I and a number of other Committee members made about it. I look forward to reminding him of those various contributions when we debate the matter on the Floor of the House.
Stephen Pound: I apologise for taking the Committees time, but it will be my last intervention. P-h-e-r-o-m-o-n-e-s are airborne micro-organisms that normally stimulate an attraction of a sexual nature; that could give a whole new meaning to faites vos jeux but it would hardly stimulate the urge to gamble. The hon. Gentleman probably knows more than I do about sexual attraction, but if he studies the back pages of certain gentlemens magazines he will see that pheromones are available in a spray form for the purpose of attracting other people and not gambling
The Chairman: Order. Much though I hate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, we are getting somewhat distant from the orders.
Mr. Foster: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for providing the spelling, which was helpful, and for providing us with his personal insight into the product.
I said that I had three points to make. The third is that during the passage through the House of the Gambling Act concerns were expressed about what might be in the regulations that were are now debating in respect of a requirement for there to be no direct access from one gambling institution to another. That has led to concerns being expressed by the owners of family entertainment centres.
The Minister will be aware that it is possible under the current arrangements to have premises within premises so that adult gaming machines, in an adult gaming centre, can be found in the same location as a family entertainment centre. However, the regulations require a completely separate set of premisesone for adult gaming and the other for family entertainment. Concern was expressed to me when we were debating the Gambling Bill that adults would be less likely to do what they do now, which is to take the children to a family entertainment centre and then go to the adult
I understand from earlier deliberations that that will not be possible under the regulations. However, I note that paragraph 3 of schedule 4, on family entertainment centres, states:
Where Category C gaming machines are made available for use on the premises, any area of the premises in which those machines are located...shall be separated from the rest of the premises by a physical barrier which is effective to prevent access other than by an entrance designed for the purpose.
It then refers to supervision. I am aware that it is the Governments intention not to have premises within premises, but I am slightly confused, because schedule 4 seems to imply that it might be possible. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain whether that is the case. I have probably got it wrong and I would welcome any explanation of why I may have got it wrong. However, if I am wrong and there now cannot be any direct connection between the two areas, what consideration has the Minister given to the concernsI know that these concerns have been expressed to him by a number of organisationsabout the impact that these regulations will have on family entertainment centres?
Mr. Bone: May I start by asking the Minister to explain why one statutory instrument comes into force on 21 May or the day after the regulations are made and the other one comes into force on 1 September? I wonder why there are two different dates.
The main point that I wanted to make is that the regulations are comprehensive, covering casinos, horse racing tracks, bingo premises and dog racing tracks. I was delighted to hear the Minister say that one of the main reasons for them is to ensure a fair bet. I am sure that, in relation to such premises and tracks, that will be the case. However, I wonder whether the Minister would like to take this opportunity to make a public statement about an issue that concerns many people at the moment, which is match fixing in the cricket world. The fact is that these regulations do not seem to apply to cricket grounds and many people are concerned that they cannot have a fair bet at the moment. There is considerable evidence that match fixing has been going on in the cricket world. I wonder whether this is an opportunity for the Minister to comment on that issue.
Mr. Caborn: I shall deal with the last question first, if I may. We have been concerned about match fixingindeed, I am still concerned about it. That is why we called a conference last year at Twickenham with the governing bodies of sport and the betting industry to examine how we could develop a code of conduct. We now have a 10-point code that most of the governing bodies have signed up to, which is entitled Integrity in sports betting. That code has evolved particularly around the new regulatory regime in horse racing, and that new regime is to be welcomed. Implementation of the code is now moving ahead.
Also, as I think the hon. Member for Wellingborough knows, we had a meeting with representatives from about 30 jurisdictions from around the world. We all shared a common view that there needed to be at least some exploration about whether we could introduce international governance and regulation of gambling, particularly of remote and internet gambling. A statement was madeI think towards the end of last yearthat all 30 signed up to that view and we are taking the process forward.
A lot of the gambling that the hon. Gentleman referred to actually takes place via the internet and remotely. As I said, we are trying to ensure that there is at least a discussion about whether we can introduce some international regulation in that area; that view was received very positively at a meeting at Ascot last year. So, on the question of the integrity of sports betting, in this country we are making progress.
The question that must be asked now is whether that issue should be dealt with by the international governing bodies. I see that there has been a debate in the press about whether there should be some type of structure for match fixing as we have for anti-doping activity. WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, was set up with sport taking the initiative, supported by politicians and Governments. Eventually, there was a UNESCO convention last year regarding anti-doping in sport.
Both doping and match fixingthrowing matches and the like, and the related gamblingbring sport into disrepute. Therefore, as politicians and Governments we have a responsibility to ensure that sport is kept clean. The same principle applies to gambling as to anti-doping. Young children in the playground look up to these icons who go on to the podiums to pick up their gold, silver and bronze medals, but if those icons are not clean of drugs that brings sport into disrepute. Similarly, it is unacceptable if people are fixing the outcome of fixtures, whether cricket, football or whatever, for personal gain. Sport as well as Government have a responsibility to ensure that that does not happen.
I take the hon. Gentlemans point seriously, whether the case is proven or not. I do not know what is happening in the West Indies at present, but there is an issue there, and that is why we have acted as we have. I hope that the new structure in the Gambling Act 2005, when it becomes fully operational on 1 September, will be a trailblazer. Indeed, looking at the issue now, the right way to regulate gambling is to make it transparent and to base regulation on the three principles that I outlined earlier.
In response to the hon. Member for Guildford, yes, we will keep all the issues under regular review. The assessment of regional casinos will last a little longer than three years. They will be under constant review by Lancaster university, and we will ensure that its study is put in the public domain after the three years. That assessment will be made as well as the gambling prevalence study, which I hope will come into the public domain later this year. That will be another benchmark by which we can measure the impact of gambling in many ways, not just on vulnerable people but, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Bath, on regeneration, the environment and so onthose are all legitimate concerns.
Indeed, the 17 new casinosI hope that the order will go through on Wednesdaywill be included in the pilot. It will cover not one but 17 casinos. We wanted eight-eight-eight, as the hon. Member for Guildford knows. Rightly or wrongly, the numbers went down to one regional casino, eight small and eight large casinos. They will constitute a pilot to study the social impact and regeneration effect, whether in seaside resorts, leisure destinations or urban areas. Seventeen casinos will be assessed, not just the one.
The hon. Lady voiced concern about door supervision. Again, I am monitoring the Gambling Commission code of practice, which covers door supervision. Operators are at risk of losing their operating licence if children enter gambling premises, and if a local authority is concerned about the issue, it can impose additional conditions at the local level. Yes, we want to be vigilant, and yes we are very clear about door supervisors and the notices that will be posted at doors, but if additional conditions are wanted at the local level, local authorities will be at liberty to put them into play, and I am sure that they will.
The hon. Member for Bath said that the regulations do not contain adequate safeguards. That is absolutely not the case. They will be complemented and reinforced by licensing conditions and the code of practice issued by the Gambling Commission. We are clearly laying out the framework in which that will happen.
Both the hon. Lady and the hon. Gentleman raised the question of gambling hours. There is the potential for 24-hour gambling, but, as in the 2003 Act, the opening hours will very much be determined by what local authorities want. We left that flexible because we believe that local conditions should determine the hours. They will be the responsibility of the local authority.
The hon. Member for Bath made a technical point about schedule 4, paragraph 3(1)(a) and how direct access rules will impact on family entertainment centres. We do not think it is right that seaside arcades to which children have access should be able to offer high-stakes, high-prize gaming machines. As under the current law, family entertainment centres will be able to offer category C machines in an adult-only area within the arcade. I have recently increased stakes and prizes
Mr. Foster: I am sorry to interrupt, but I am having difficulty hearing the Minister on a crucially important point. Would he be kind enough to read the last bit more clearly so that I can catch what he is saying?
Mr. Caborn: The hon. Gentleman ought to have a test for industrial deafness. He may well have a claim.
As under the current law, family entertainment centres will be able to offer category C machines in an adult-only area within the arcade. I have recently increased stakes and prizes for category C machines to 50p and £35, which should help seaside arcades. Adult gaming centres have for the first time an entitlement to
I come now to interpretation of the regulations, which state that such areas:
shall be separated from the rest of the premises by a physical barrier which is effective to prevent access other than by an entrance designed for the purpose.
My understanding of that is that someone will physically have to leave one area and go into the area where the category B3 machines have been placed. They will physically have to go out of one areanot just walk over a barrierand into the other area if they want to play the B3 machines. I repeat, the measure says that such areas
shall be separated from the rest of the premises by a physical barrier which is effective to prevent access other than by an entrance designed for the purpose.
I will write to hon. Members and put copies of the letter in the Libraries of both Houses, because I know that this has been a point of some concern, but my understanding is that someone has physically to go out of one section, whether or not it is under the same roof, and then go into the other part, which contains the category B3 machines.
Mr. Foster: I am grateful to the Minister for at least setting out his understanding of what the schedule says. I have to say that he is being consistent with what he said during the passage of the Act, but I am not disputing that. However, it will be very important that there is clarification of the point, because the Minister will be well aware, if he carries on reading paragraph 3 of schedule 4, that sub-paragraph (1)(c) says that the barrier
shall be arranged in such a way so as to permit all parts of the area to be observed by the persons mentioned in sub-paragraph (2),
who are the supervisors. The whole arrangement for how people can see and do and so on is somewhat confusing to me, but I am grateful for the Ministers explanation and his agreement to write and give us a clear statement.
Mr. Caborn: We try to be fair to family entertainment centres, as the hon. Gentleman knows, because he served on the Standing Committee that considered the Bill. We went through a lot of discussion on the issue and we tried to frame the legislation in such a way that family entertainment centres could at least continue to operate. That is why we have reference to family entertainment centres, where all young people can go. We then talked about category C machines and said yes, as long as they were separate. But when we got to category B machines, we said no. That was a major argument in Committee. We said that there had to be a physical division. Therefore, a person who wants to participate in what we might call a harder form of gambling will physically have to go out of the premises and into the other area. There was a question whether an awning could be installed to prevent people from getting wet. There has been a lot of discussion with a lot of people, particularly, if I may
We said yes, but there has to be the physical act of coming out of one area and moving into the other area. I think that I have answered all the points that have been raised.
Mr. Foster: The Minister has not answered all the questions that have been raised. The hon. Member for Wellingborough asked a fascinating question about the different time starts in respect of the two different measures before us. I was rather hoping that the Minister would respond to that question. When he does respond, if he says that the premises regulations will come into effect at the time when it is said that they will come into effect, what implication does that have for the new casinos that are being agreed by the Gambling Commission under the existing legislation, not the new legislation? I ask that because the new legislation does not come into force until 1 September, but these regulations, applying to casinos, come into force before the start date for the new Act. Therefore, some confusion might need to be resolved.
Mr. Caborn: I shall read out what my very able officials have just passed to me. The statutory instruments come into force on 21 May and1 September. The premises licence regime will begin on 21 May and therefore conditions and regulations will need to be in force from that date. The order amends section 182 of the 2005 Act and is part of the new regulatory regime that will come into force on1 September. Shall I read that again? I am prepared to be corrected, but I interpret it to mean that the order amends section 182 of the 2005 Act, and that is part of the new regulatory regime that will come into force on 1 September for those who set up the new facilities. I suggest that that is what is happening. The casinos applied for up to April 2006 under the 1968 Act will come into operation under the new regime, which will apply from 1 September.
Mr. Foster: I am now totally confused. I know that that is nothing new, but the purpose of these debates is to ensure that everybody is clear. The Minister has just said that the regime will apply to the new casinos. That is not true. We are told clearly in the regulatory impact assessment that the conditions apply to all existing businesses, including 170 casinos, 700 bingo halls, 2000 arcades and 9000 betting shops. From which date do they apply to all the existing premises?
Mr. Caborn: The question asked was: when will existing casinos have to abide by the new conditions? The answer is from 1 September 2007, and existing law will remain in force until then. The 1968 Act continues in force until that regime comes into effect. The casino applications for which the closing date was April last
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the draft Gambling Act 2005 (Mandatory and Default Conditions) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007.
DRAFT GAMBLING ACT 2005 (EXCLUSION OF CHILDREN FROM TRACK AREAS) ORDER 2007
That the Committee has considered the draft Gambling Act 2005 (Exclusion of Children from Track Areas) Order 2007[Mr. Caborn.]
The Committee rose at twenty-three minutes past Five oclock.
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