In the United Kingdom, the Court Of Appeal has upheld an earlier ruling that gave the Gambling Commission regulator the right to prevent pubs from obtaining a gambling license even if the operator had satisfied all of the necessary criteria.
The Friday decision from the nation’s second-highest court confirmed an upper tribunal judge’s ruling from February of 2016 that the Gambling Commission had the right to refuse applications for operating licenses from pubs as to consider such requests could be seen as “trespassing” on the rights the Gambling Act 2005 had assigned to local authorities.
Operators that want to offer high-street gambling services in the United Kingdom must first obtain an operating license from the Gambling Commission as well as a premises license from the relevant local authority. In its ruling, the Court Of Appeal additionally declared that the regulator is not obliged to issue an operating license to pubs if it believes doing so would be “harmful to the statutory licensing objectives” set out in the Gambling Act 2005, which include preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way and protecting children and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited.
The case dates back to February of 2014 when the nation’s largest pub retailer, Greene King, applied for a license to offer high-stakes bingo at its 3,000 locations. The Gambling Commission subsequently refused the application despite explaining that it had been “satisfied as to the suitability and competence of [Greene King] and persons relevant to the applications to offer the proposed licensed gambling activities”.
As part of its decision, the Gambling Commission declared that its regulatory panel had raised concerns “about the development of commercial bingo in what have traditionally been pub premises” and stated that granting the license to Greene King would not be “reasonably consistent” with the licensing goals of the Gambling Act 2005 as it had the “potential to jeopardize the second and third objectives”.
Not satisfied with the refusal, Greene King took the matter to court and won an initial appeal in front of a first-tier tribunal judge before an upper tribunal counterpart ruled last year that his predecessor had erred, which is an opinion the Court Of Appeal has now upheld.