23 JUNE 1999
By the Select Committee appointed to report whether
the provisions of any bill inappropriately delegate legislative
power, or whether they subject the exercise of legislative power
to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny; to report
on documents laid before Parliament under section 3(3) of the
Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and on draft orders
laid under section 1(4) of that Act; and to perform, in respect
of such documents and orders, the functions performed in respect
of other instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.
PROPOSAL FOR THE DRAFT DEREGULATION (CASINOS)
1. Casino gaming is at the "hard" end
of the gambling spectrum.
Until recently there had been very little change to the strict
regime to control casinos introduced by the Gaming Act 1968. "Recommendations
for relaxations made by the Royal Commission on Gambling in 1978
were never implemented. The first relaxations to the controls
were introduced in April 1997, namely the extension of permitted
alcohol licensing hours in casinos in England and Wales to 3.00
am in London and 2.00 am elsewhere (Scotland already had extended
hours); the reduction of the waiting period before new members
may take part in gaming from 48 hours to 24 hours; the acceptance
of debit card payments (but not credit cards) in casinos; and
the extension of permitted Sunday opening hours in Scotland to
bring them into line with the arrangements in England and Wales."
2. The proposed Order
deals with three distinct changes to the law regulating casinos:-
(1) to remove the requirement to apply in person
at the casino at least 24 hours before taking part in gaming;
3. The proposals cover casinos in England, Wales
and Scotland. They do not extend to Northern Ireland which has
its own gambling legislation. There are no casinos in Northern
(2) to allow further limited advertising for casinos;
(3) to increase from six to 10 the maximum number
of gaming machines allowed in a casino.
4. Each of the proposed changes in the law would
reduce a burden on the businesses which run casinos.
5. The Committee is satisfied that the proposal
reduces a burden.
6. Those consulted are listed at Annex A to the
Explanatory Memorandum where there is also a helpful summary of
responses. The consultation began on 5 August 1998 and replies
were requested by 21 October. Between these dates responses were
received on behalf of 37 organisations and individuals and two
responses were received subsequently.
7. The Committee considers that the Government's
consultation exercise was adequate.
8. What is "necessary protection" in relation
to the regulation of casinos? The Home Office answered this question
in a previous consultation document. "Commercial gaming is
a cash generating business and as such can be vulnerable to criminal
involvement and its participants can be exploited. Also, some
people are susceptible to gambling excessively. It is for these
reasons that gaming must be carefully regulated. The quality of
regulation in Great Britain is widely respected in what is increasingly
an international scene, and is an asset to the industry."
In February 1996 the Government considered "that the following
principles should continue to form the basis for gambling controls:
(i) Controls are necessary to prevent the incursion
of crime, public disorder and nuisance into gambling and to ensure
that it is at all times properly and honestly conducted;
(ii) In the interests of consumer protection,
punters should get a fair deal and be made fully aware of what
they are letting themselves in for when they gamble;
(iii) Restrictions are desirable to discourage
socially damaging excesses and to protect the vulnerable."
The Government concluded then that "the concept
of 'unstimulated demand' - that gambling facilities should be
provided only to meet the unstimulated demand for them - should
continue to play an important role in the regulation of casinos."
9. It was in the light of these general principles
that we considered the present proposals.
10. The first proposed change alters the requirements
which must be satisfied before a person can take part in gaming
at a casino. At present there are two routes to the gaming tables:-
(a) as a member who applied for membership at the
casino at least 24 hours before he starts gaming; and
(b) as a member who has attended the casino on an
earlier occasion (at least 24 hours before he starts gaming) and
on that visit has given written notice that he intends to take
part in the gaming.
11. The purpose of these restrictions is to impose
a 24 hour delay between the expressed desire to gamble and the
opportunity to do so. In our 9th Report of the 1996-97 session
the Committee commented that the delay "is intended to provide
would-be gamblers with a period of reflection, to consider the
risks; and to stop casinos from attracting passing trade".
There would still be a 24 hour "period of reflection"
if the change were to be made but the would-be gambler would not
have to make a preliminary visit to the casino and could send
to it his application for membership (or, as a member, his notice
of intention to take part in gaming there.)
12. In written evidence to the Committee GamCare
was concerned at the loss of necessary protection to those under
18, and did not consider signing a declaration on the application
form that the applicant is over 18 a sufficient safeguard. In
order to prevent an increase in the incidence of underage casino
gamblers, GamCare suggested that applicants should be asked to
state their age on the application form, and then on their first
visit all applicants with a stated age close to 18 could be asked
13. The Committee does not consider the additional
safeguards recommended by GamCare necessary. In an earlier report
we rehearsed this Committee's belief that the existing law is
incoherent and unsatisfactory in its attempts to protect young
from gambling in general and all-cash machines in particular.
We do not need to rehearse our arguments again, since they have
not changed, but note that the law already prohibits casinos from
admitting under-18s. In the Committee's opinion this element of
the proposal does not involve any loss of necessary protection.
14. The proposed change in the restrictions on advertising
casinos would allow an advertisement of a casino if (a) it "is
contained in a publication which is not published wholly or mainly
for the purposes of promoting" gaming premises and (b) the
advertisement contains no more than the name, logo, address, and
phone and fax numbers and "factual written information about
the facilities provided on the premises, the ownership of the
premises, the persons who may be admitted to the premises and
the method by which such person may become eligible to take part
in gaming on the premises". This covers a very wide range
of advertisements from a three line entry under the heading "casinos"
in, for example, Yellow Pages (there is no such heading at present
as casino advertising is prohibited) to a large advertisement
in a daily paper. However, paragraph 33 of the Explanatory Memorandum
states that "the Minister has agreed with the Gaming Board,
the British Casino Association, the Advertising Association and
the Advertising Standards Association that the Gaming Board should
issue a Code of Practice requiring advertisements to be confined
to the classified sections of newspapers and advising on such
matters as content and size of permitted advertisements".
The Committee considers that it is not unreasonable for the Department
to contend that no necessary protection will be lost by this part
of the proposal.
15. The third change would increase from six to 10
the number of jackpot machines allowed in a casino. Again, the
Committee considers that there is no loss of necessary protection
16. The Committee considers that necessary protection
would be maintained under the proposal.
17. This is the latest of a series of deregulation
proposals affecting casinos. The first led to the increase from
two to six of the number of gaming machines allowed in a casino
(see the Committee's 13th Report for session 1995-96). The second
led to the reduction from 48 hours to 24 hours in the waiting
period for casino membership (see the Committee's 9th Report for
session 1996-97). In both cases the Committee saw no objection
to the proposal. The Committee has also considered a proposal
to amend the controls on advertising betting and gaming (15th
report 1996-97) but that proposal did not apply to casinos.
18. In the case of each of these earlier deregulation
proposals, the Committee took the view that necessary protection
would be maintained. We are glad to note that "in its Annual
Report for 1997/98
the Gaming Board reports that it is
not aware of any problems or difficulties arising from
[the earlier] changes. It understands that the measures have proved
generally helpful to the industry, with the introduction of debit
being particularly successful."
19. Will this be the last of the series of deregulation
proposals affecting casinos? There is every indication from the
Government that it will not. Moreover in its response to the Government's
latest consultation paper on this subject London Clubs International
urged the government to "move quickly to allowing the introduction
of at least twenty machines and a proper casino slot machine regime."
20. As Lord Allen of Abbeydale said in his evidence
to us "it can obviously be argued that the principle has
already been conceded by the decision to increase the number from
two to six and now it is just another four. But the Home Office
memorandum makes it clear that this is not the end. It is just
one more step; and although further moves will be taken with caution,
there is a clear prospect of allowing 'very large numbers of machines'."
Lord Allen concluded by wondering "if the powers of the 1994
are so extensive as to permit the introduction by the back door,
as it were, of what would in effect become a new form of hard
gaming in a way which is so remote from the plain intentions of
the 1968 Act;
and whether this might be an occasion for a reminder that there
are limits to what can be done in this context by way of deregulation."
21. The Government's August 1998 consultation paper
stated that "The Government acknowledges the comments made
by the previous Deregulation Committees to the effect that the
gambling law is complex and that some previous deregulation orders
have increased that complexity. They called for a general overhaul
and consolidation of the gambling legislation. General gambling
reform would be a large undertaking, involving three main Acts
of Parliament - the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, the
Gaming Act 1968 and the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976. The
Government recognises the case for such an exercise but is not
able to take it forward in the short term, and proposes meanwhile
to continue to use the deregulation process to make appropriate,
22. One problem in relaxing any sector of the
law by "salami slicing" is that it becomes unclear as
to when the principles governing the legislation are being fundamentally
undermined. In our assessment of the present proposal, we do not
think that this point has been reached. But the piecemeal relaxation
of the gaming laws by means of the deregulation procedure is clearly
unsatisfactory, and, in the strong view of this Committee, the
legislation is now due for review.
23. The Committee is satisfied that the proposal
for the Draft Deregulation (Casinos) Order 1999 meets the requirements
of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and is appropriate
to be made under it, without amendment.
1 Casinos and Bingo Clubs: A Consultation Paper (Home
Office, February 1996), para 1.4.1. Back
2 Casino Deregulation Consultation Paper, August 1998, Annex C,
paragraph 1. Back
3 The proposal was laid before Parliament on 19 April 1999 in the
form of a draft of the Order and an explanatory memorandum from
the Home Office. Back
4 Casinos and Bingo Clubs: A Consultation Paper (Home Office, February
1996), paras 1.2.1 and 1.2.2. Back
5 Apparently one company owns a chain of casinos and someone who
applies for membership of one obtains membership of all. To use
the tables in the first he has to apply there at least 24 hours
before he plays and to use another in the chain he has to visit
it twice. On the first visit he cannot play but gives written
notice of his intention, then, at least 24 hours later, he can
take part in the gaming. Back
6 National Association for Gambling Care Educational Resources and
7 Ironically, the evidence to the Committee from London Clubs International
cited as a reason for supporting the deregulation proposal the
fact that that the industry was "a labour intensive business
offering employment and training to the young and unskilled". Back
8 13th report 1995-96, HL Paper 45, pp 4-5. Back
9 We have referred to this change in the first paragraph of this
10 Casino Deregulation Consultation Paper, August 1998, Annex C,
paragraph 2. Back
11 The Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. Back
12 The Gaming Act 1968. Back
13 Consultation document, paragraph 1.6. Back
14 This report is also published on the Internet at the House of
Lords Select Committee Home Page (http://www.parliament.uk), where
further information about the work of the Committee is also available. Back