DCMS to allow up to 80 gaming machines at certain casinos

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The UK government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport has published new regulations it intends to implement in response to a consultation regarding measures relating to the land-based gambling sector from the gambling white paper.

Following analysis of the evidence submitted, the DCMS intends to increase the number of gaming machines allowed at certain land-based casinos to 80 and more than 20 for smaller casinos; allow a 2:1 ratio of Category B to Category C and D gaming machines in arcades and bingo halls; allow direct debit card payments on gaming machines; introduce an age limit of 18 and over for the use of ‘cash-out’ Category D slot-style gaming machines; and increase the maximum chargeable premises licence fees.

DCMS conducted a public consultation on the measures relating to the land-based gambling sector from the gambling white paper from July 26, 2023, to October 4, 2023. The consultation was conducted to determine what changes are needed for the land-based sector in response to the growth of online gambling. 

In total, 87 responses were received from a variety of stakeholders, including researchers, adult gaming centre operators, bingo operators, campaign organisations, casino operators, individuals, local authorities, pub representatives and responses from the wider gambling industry.

16 additional responses were also received for a supplementary consultation to gather further evidence on the reform of the 80/20 rule.

Some gambling industry participants included 888 William Hill, BACTA, Betfred, Betting and Gaming Council, Buzz Group, Entain, GambleAware, Gambling with Lives, GamCare, Genting Casinos UK, Hippodrome Casino, Merkur Bingo & Casino Entertainment UK, Merkur Slots, Rank Group and Wexel Gaming.

Regarding casino measures, the DCMS has stated that it will allow “1968 Act casinos to increase the number of their gaming machines to 80 if they meet the size requirements of a Small 2005 Act casino”.

The government will also allow smaller 1968 Act casinos to have “more than 20 machines, on a pro-rata basis commensurate to their size”, while betting will also be permitted in all casinos.

For machines in arcades and bingo halls, DCMS has said it will allow a “2:1 ratio of Category B to Category C and D gaming machines” to be implemented on a device-type basis. 

This means “two Category B gaming machines on a cabinet device type can be made available to a minimum of one Category C or D gaming machine on a cabinet device type” and the same applies to in-fills and tablets.

Regarding cashless payments on gaming machines, the DCMS will “allow direct debit card payments to be made on gaming machines, subject to the player protection measures”, including account verification for each transaction and a £100 transaction limit.

Additionally, the government stated that the UK Gambling Commission will “consult on a number of player protection measures that may be included in their Gaming Machine Technical Standards to ensure that appropriate frictions are in place when direct debit card payments are used”.

As for the 18 age limit for ‘cash-out’ Category D slot-style machines, the DCMS has stated that it will ensure it is enforced by making it “a criminal offence to invite, cause or permit someone under the age of 18 to use these machines”.

It is also proposing that the industry “fund, conduct, and, crucially, report on the outcomes of voluntary test purchasing to DCMS”, while it will work with relevant trade bodies and operators “to understand the feasibility of this proposal and the frequency of any reporting to DCMS”.

As for licensing authority fees, the DCMS has said that maximum premises licence fees which can be charged by local authorities will be increased to 15 per cent, enabling licensing authorities to “fund their enforcement and administrative gambling duties on a cost recovery basis”.

The next step for these regulations will be for them to be presented before Parliament.