Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Opera House Casino, Scarborough (PR 82)

Casinos are primarily licensed under The Gambling Act 2005 and are strictly regulated by The Gambling Commission. Casinos are also licensed under the Licensing Act 2003 to permit the supply of alcohol which is ancillary to the main activity of gaming. A recent analysis of one casino showed that over 95% of income was from gaming. This is typical of most casinos and shows consumption of alcohol is an "add on activity" often supplied with a restaurant or bar meal.

The Gambling Act 2005 sets out the default hours of operation between mid day and 6am with some casinos permitted to operate for 24 hours each day. Casinos must provide facilities for non gambling activities and at least 10% of the gaming area must be set aside for recreational purposes. A typical casino has very high levels of staff/customer ratios and The Gambling Commission imposes strict rules about how gaming is supervised.

Gaming Commission conditions and codes of practice require all casinos to have rigorous entry controls to ensure those who appear intoxicated are denied entry. Any misbehaviour or drunkenness is quickly dealt with as it can disrupt the fair and proper conduct of gaming. Any bad conduct will result in a customer being asked to leave and barred from the casino.

Many town centre casinos located near discos bars etc are often penalized because of the way police statistics are compiled. For example because a casino might be seen as a place to extend drinking hours any resulting disorder, where for instance a person is refused admission, can result in police action and a "black mark" against the casino. It is appreciated the police have an extremely difficult job often dealing with multiple incidents but some mechanism to link the offender and where the alcohol was consumed might help decide which premises to target for enforcement.

What I would stress is that casinos open late hours because their primary purpose is to provide facilities other than the sale of alcohol. It is unjust therefore that casinos may be caught by an EMRO which should be aimed at premises where supply of alcohol is the primary or exclusive purpose of the premises being open for business.

Casinos operate in most major towns and cities. In a situation where one licensing authority imposes an EMRO but an adjoining one does not; in one area a casino will be open for gaming but not able to supply alcohol whilst nearby another casino will be able to operate as at present. Even small casinos attract punters from other than the immediate locality. Punters will quickly realize what has happened and move their business from one to another. This will destabilize the casino market place and at the same time encourage unnecessary vehicle movement from one area to another.

Far better that casinos were exempt from the legislation. It should not be left to the whim of a licensing authority to include or exclude casinos from an EMRO. It should be prescribed within the legislation.

It would be easy for the legislation to describe casinos as exempt as a definition of a casino already exists within s7 Gambling Act 2005, so there would be no issues about which premises will benefit.

Most casinos fall into rateable value band E and would be subject to a late night levy at a high rate. Clearly casinos do not give rise to the problems of alcohol related crime disorder and nuisance that the levy seeks to penalize. Indeed casinos are already heavily taxed by the treasury in the form of gaming duty and contribute huge sums to fund social responsibility projects.

If a levy is introduced then it should apply to all licensed premises including off-licenses and supermarkets given the clear link between cheap alcohol and excessive consumption. A typical night out for a group will include disproportionate consumption of cheap alcohol in the early evening (front loading) followed by top ups of the much more expensive drinks at entertainment venues later in the night.

January 2011