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"(2A) A person does not supply or install gambling software for the purposes of subsection (1) by reason only of the facts that
(a) he makes facilities for remote communication or non-remote communication available to another person, and
(b) the facilities are used by the other person to supply or install gambling software."
The Government decided earlier in the passage of the Bill that the number of regional casinos should be subject to a limit of eight in the first place. Some have argued that eight is too many and that there should be a smaller test of the regional casino concept before more licences are authorised.
In another place the Opposition proposed an amendment which would have applied a limit of four to regional casinos. They have now maintained that that is too high and that there should be no more than a single regional casino in the first place. They have made it clear that their support for the passage of the Bill is contingent on such a limitation.
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We have from the outset emphasized the precautionary principle. In other words, where there is room for reasonable doubt about the social impact of allowing more opportunities for gambling, we should err on the side of caution and maintain stricter regulation until there is empirical evidence which provides the necessary reassurance.
In the case of regional casinos an initial limit of one rather than eight is consistent with the precautionary principle. We have therefore agreed with the Opposition that the Bill should be amended to provide for one regional casino licence, rather than eight. This group of amendments includes Amendment No. 234A, which has that effect. It also includes Amendment No. 235 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, which has the same effect, although our quantity is better than his.
However, I wish to make it clear, as the Government have made it clear to the Opposition, that we do not and cannot rule out at this stage the possibility that at some later stage there might be a case for asking Parliament to agree to some increase above a single licence. In that event, it would be for Parliament to decide. The Bill, as already drafted, provides for any change to the number of regional licences to require the affirmative resolution of both Houses.
However, the effect of the present amendment is plain: the Bill will provide for one and only one regional casino licence in the first place. We will proceed with planning for implementation on that basis. We will keep the position under review with an open mind, and we will look to Parliament to do the same if the need arises.
When the House met in Committee on 10 March there was strong feeling that more needed to be done in the Bill to ensure that casinos maintained effective controls on entry to the gambling areas of their casinos. On 10 March, I highlighted the very rigorous measures that are in place and that the Government intend to impose through the Bill, which together will ensure that only adults can enter the gambling area of casinos; that when they gamble they are provided with the toughest protection against problem gambling anywhere in the world; and that effective measures will continue to be in place to protect against any threat of money laundering in casinos. In each of these areasthe exclusion of children from gambling areas, effective action to protect against problem gambling, and action against money launderingthe Government are confident that the combination of action under the Bill and the existing money-laundering regulations will achieve all the objectives which I think are shared across the House.
The Government took careful note of the mood of the Committee on 10 March and I said that I was only too happy to discuss the matter in detail with the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. We have had very constructive discussions. Those have resulted in government Amendments Nos. 102A and 243A.
I want to reiterate what I said about money laundering and the requirements on casino customers to provide identification now and in the future. The second money-laundering directive is enforced now
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through Treasury regulations. Those regulations require identification of casino customers on entry, and the Gaming Board and the Treasury issue guidance on acceptable forms of ID. That system is working well and will continue to have effect whether or not this Bill comes into effect.
Alongside the enforcement of the second directive, we are now considering with other member states a third directive. Like the second directive, the draft third directive offers casinos the option of identifying customers on entry or when they spend a given amount of money which is proposed at 1,000 euros. No final decision on the third directive has yet been taken. I want to be clear, however, that the Government are entirely committed to firm action to combat money laundering and to the requirements for identification that comes with that. We will impose effective identification requirements on casinos now and in the future.
I want to reiterate also what I said about action to combat risks of problem gambling. The Bill bristles with new powers to protect vulnerable consumers. It gives the Gambling Commission unprecedented powers to interfere with the detailed operation of gambling premises to negate risks of problem gambling. It requires the commission to issue a code of practice on social responsibility. It makes it a condition of each operating licence that the licensee complies with the code. I can say without fear of contradiction that no consumers in any modern gambling industry will be as comprehensively protected as those in British casinos.
The amendments give expression to the pledges I gave. Amendment No. 234A imposes new requirements on casino operators to ensure that those under 18 cannot gain entry to casinos or the gambling areas of regional casinos. The amendment is mainly concerned with ensuring two things: that there are staff supervising all entry points, and that where there is any reasonable doubt whether a person is aged 18 or over, that person is required to produce evidence of age. Under the amendment the Gambling Commission will be required to issue a code of practice spelling out the detailed arrangements which operators are to make to achieve those two objectives. The Gambling Commission code will deal specifically with the nature of ID evidence that operators will need to obtain. The code of practice on age verification will be mandatory, not advisory.
It will be a condition of the premises licence that the licensee complies with the code. If they do not, they will breach the terms of their licence even if it turns out that the person concerned was in fact over 18. So the burden of responsibility falls squarely on the casino, as it should.
As I said in Committee, there is already in the Bill a specific criminal offence in Clause 46(1) that places a strong burden of responsibility on casinos to keep children out. But I want to underline that we have listened. In these amendments we have proposed even tougher arrangements that will protect children and can reassure parents. Government Amendments Nos.
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135, 136, 137, 138 and 244 follow on from the announcement I made on Second Reading about the use of credit cards in casinos. They prevent customers using their credit cards in payment for gambling in a casino. The Bill as already drafted prohibits the use of credit cards in gaming machines, but these amendments extend this to all gambling in a casino. They do allow cash machines to remain in casinos so long as there is no commercial relationship between the casino and the machine provider. The casino must also ensure that conditions relating to the location of such machines are observed properly.
We also gave an undertaking to provide the Secretary of State with a reserve power to order licensing authorities to consider whether to pass a casino resolution. Amendments Nos. 187 and 220 do that. Amendments Nos. 247, 248, 249 and 381 ensure that, where bingo and casino operators use their own staff for door supervision purposes, they continue to be exempt from being licensed under the Private Security Industry Act 2001. We believe that the controls in the Bill are enough to regulate those matters.
Finally, I turn to Amendment No. 378A. Some of the provisions in this amendment are merely consequential on the provisions of Part 12 of the Bill relating to alcohol licensed premises. They ensure that the provisions of the Gaming Act 1968 are consistent with the provisions of Part 12, but the amendment also makes new proposals in relation to casinos licensed under that Act. The amendments indicate the Government's positive and constructive response to the concerns raised by the British casino industry, which were reflected in a number of comments in Committee and at Second Reading.
The Government are pledged to take a precautionary approach to the reform of the law on casinos. The public and the House of Commons demanded changes to the Bill that ensured a controlled evolution of the casino market, and we will honour our promise to take this process of change slowly.
The Bill allows for new styles of casino, with many more gaming machines than existing casinos. Of course, all companies operating casinos now will be eligible to apply for the new licences, and I am sure that they will be well placed to win them. The Bill sets limits on the number of new licences in the first phase of the new regime. There will be no more new-style licences until we have had an opportunity to assess the impact of the new casinos and the effectiveness of the Gambling Commission's new protections against problem gambling. We think that this precautionary principle is necessary and we shall not compromise on it.
In that context, the Government do not consider it prudent to allow all existing casinos to convert into new-style casinos immediately. We think it more appropriate to delay such conversion until the safety of the new forms of casino has been confirmed in practice. Equally, we believe that it is reasonable to permit existing casinos some of the new commercial freedoms offered to new casinos. Accordingly, existing
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casinos will be able to advertise and will not be required to operate as members' clubs if they do not want to do so.
The Government have reflected carefully on the mood of the House in Committee and have considered very carefully since then whether existing casinos can be permitted some additional commercial rights without jeopardising our essential priority of ensuring a cautious and gradual approach to the process of change.
After careful consideration, and in the light of the improved protections offered by the new system of regulation to be administered by the Gambling Commission, the Government feel able to come forward with new proposals today. Those proposals are as follows.
We propose to increase the maximum stake for existing casino jackpot gaming machines from its present 50 pence to £2, and we propose to increase the maximum prize for existing casino jackpot gaming machines from £2,000 to £4,000. We shall also allow casinos, within an overall enhanced limit of 20 machines, to provide a new form of gaming machine, with stakes and prizes the same as now offered by fixed-odds betting terminals in betting offices. We propose that all these changes relating to machines should be implemented as soon as practicable after Royal Assent, and certainly this year. We also propose that existing casinos should be entitled to install 40 automatic terminals for casino table games. Lastly, we propose that the statutory delay of 24 hours between joining a casino and first being permitted to play should be abolished as soon as practicable following Royal Assent, bringing forward the lifting of this burden by two years.
Those changes will be given effect partly through the Bill and partly through the use of secondary legislation under the Gaming Act 1968. But I give a pledge today that the Government will implement the changes as soon as possible following the passage of the Bill.
I recognise entirely that the proposals in this Bill on casinos have caused concern and controversy. People across the country have strong views and a certain anxiety about casino gambling. The Government respect those views and we agree that they should be taken slowly, in a way that Parliament and the Government can control. We also want the system to be fair to all sections of the casino industry, as we believe it is. Fair does not mean that everyone gets what they might want in an ideal world; it means that there are reasonable opportunities for all concerned to prosper with a framework where public protection is paramount.
This package of new proposals is the final part of the overall package of reform for casinos. It has been a difficult process and the Government are committed to keeping close control over the issue as it develops. But, with the reassurances I have offered today about effective supervision in casinos, I hope that the Committee will agree that the Government now have the overall balance about right. I beg to move.
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