| The UK Court
of Appeal Civil Division has today upheld an earlier court ruling which allows
the UK Gambling Commission to reject licence applications, even if the intended
party has satisfied all licence requirements.
The ruling gives the UKGC the ability to reject licence
applications if it deems them to be inconsistent with its objectives.
It follows a legal challenge by the UKs largest pub retailer
Greene King, who applied for a bingo licence to run bingo games in their 3000
pubs around the UK.
The licence application was refused on the grounds
that Green Kings business model was liable to undermine the objectives of
the licensing body.
Following this decision Greene King launched an
appeal on the grounds that it had satisfied all the conditions set down by the
regulator and that as such the UKGC had no grounds to reject the application.
The initial legal challenge by Greene King was successful, however the
case was referred to the Court of Appeal for summary judgment after the UKGC
lodged an appeal.
The background to the case is that Greene King, which
operates over a thousand premises with alcohol licences, had applied to the
Gambling Commission for an operating licence to provide bingo and ancillary
gaming machines in a limited number of premises. The application was made to
the Gambling Commission on 24 May 2012 and was refused at a regulatory panel
meeting on 26 February 2014.
Greene King appealed to the First-tier
Tribunal and the decision of Judge Warren on 8 December 2014 was to allow the
appeal and quash the decision of the Gambling Commission. Judge Warren stated
in paragraph 31 of his decision:
here in my judgment they (GC) were
trespassing on territory which the Act assigns to Licensing
the Commissions purpose in refusing the applications and
indeed the only justification for doing so is to prevent Greene King from
applying for a premises licence.
The Gambling Commission appealed
to the Upper Tier Tribunal and were successful. Many were waiting for this
decision were disappointed that the decision did not look at the specifics of
the actual Greene King application as the decision deals with simply whether or
not the Gambling Commission acted within its powers. The Upper Tier Tribunal
was not asked to and therefore did not determine the actual application by
Greene King. The Upper Tier Tribunal was asked to rule on whether the
First-tier Tribunal decision was legally flawed.
So Greene King went
higher still but The Court of Appeal supported the UK Gambling Commissions
argument, stating that the UKGC was entitled to consider and find the proposed
operation of that licence to be inconsistent with the licensing objective and
refuse that licence accordingly.
In a statement regarding the ruling,
Helen Venn, UK Gambling Commission Programme Director said: "We welcome the
Upper Tribunals decision, which clarifies the Commissions powers.
In our view commercial betting, gaming and bingo and any
associated high stakes and prize machines, should only be provided in separate
premises licensed for that specific purpose premises that adults make a
deliberate choice to visit in order to gamble.
No comment was
forthcoming by Greene King.