Now’s the time to get to the bottom of what was a collective failure before it has the chance to happen all over again

AGCs collective failure licensing regime Peter Hannibal Gambling Business Group
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Peter Hannibal, chief executive of the cross-sector strategic body, the Gambling Business Group, proposes a back to basics education programme even down to the use of the ‘A’ word.


Does anyone remember Jeremy Corbyn’s post election quote after he directed the Labour Party’s worst performance in 84 years and claimed “We won the argument, but I regret we didn’t convert that into a majority for change”.

Well if that is what any of us are thinking about last week, then we need to think again. Because if we had got the message across and won the argument, AGCs and High Street Bingo would be open and earning money today.

If we are not going to fall foul of this again, and July 4 is a looming date when history could potentially repeat itself, then we need to recognise that we all failed to get the message to the places where it needed to be listened to.

We – The industry failed, the regulator failed and the DCMS failed, and let’s not forget that the civil servant(s) who bizarrely decided to introduce the word ‘Arcade’ into government documentation also failed – miserably.

Because what none of us realised is that where the message really needed to be was somewhere in Number 10, that inner sanctum to which none of us have access at times like this.

Now don’t get me wrong, we were severely hampered by poorly understood licensing vernacular, which even the most experienced of us struggle to grapple with. And in fairness our collective alarm bells started ringing when we realised that the Gambling Commission and the DCMS were indeed engaged in a week-long tussle over said vernacular.

In the end, I suspect that the confusions and misunderstandings between the DCMS and No10 relegated ‘Arcades’ into the ‘too difficult’ box and their excuses were subsequently made.

But what this episode highlights, is that the Premise-based Licensing regime for Gambling and Gambling Regulation is not understood by government, has clearly not passed the ‘fit for purpose’ test and is increasingly out of date.

Premise-based licensing is therefore in need of a complete overhaul along with the intended review of the Gambling Act. To put this into context, the general public – whom the licensing regime is here to protect after all – will have no comprehension of what happened last week. They will not know the difference between a High Street Licensed Bingo venue, an AGC, a Licensed FEC and an unlicensed FEC. Is it any wonder that Number 10 couldn’t get their brains around it?

Some readers may have seen the article with Billy Ball in the Clacton Gazette on Monday; Pier director Billy Ball said the attraction, along with others in the industry, were due to reopen today, but that they were informed of the U-turn at the 11th hour.

From a non-industry perspective Billy’s venue could arguably be anyone of the four premise types listed above and the public would know no different. So, from this you could forgive them for thinking that Amusement Arcades were due to open last Monday.

Then we have the gambling ‘specialists’ at The Guardian newspaper printing their headline with not only the offending ‘Arcade’ word but making it even more confusing by adding the term ‘Amusements’.

If this is what transpires then what chance do any of us stand with such a clumsy premise licensing regime?

What we must do now is work together with the DCMS to ensure that there is no chance of this happening again on July 4th, (not to ANY sub-sector of Gambling UK!!) and then work with the DCMS to begin sorting this Gambling Regulation dog’s dinner of a mess out.

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