GAMBLING ethics were debated when setting new legislation at a Denbighshire County Council meeting – with councillors highlighting fears about those betting under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
At a meeting at the council’s Ruthin HQ, councillors rubberstamped a revised gambling report for the county.
The report acknowledged that gambling can be addictive, compromising gamblers’ lives and those of their families.
Gambling regulation is delivered nationally through the Gambling Commission and locally through the public protection service, but the council claims it is aiming to reduce harm and ensure a level playing field for businesses.
Part of the local authority’s responsibilities as a licensing authority under the Gambling Act is to determine, review, consult upon, and publish a Statement of Gambling Principles on a three-yearly basis.
The Statement of Gambling Principles establishes a local framework for decision making when considering applications for relevant permissions or variations to existing terms and conditions.
Whilst the council agreed to adopt the draft statement, several councillors raised the morality of allowing gambling, especially in reference to pubs and clubs where people drank alcohol and played fruit machines.
Cllr Mark Young claimed he knew families who had lost their homes and asked how the report aligned with the council’s corporate priority of a ‘healthy Denbighshire’, questioning how the report listed changes as positive.
“Addiction causes huge problems, and if you look at national figures, it is going to be thousands of people struggling with this,” said Cllr Young.
“And I know people who have lost their houses with it, and the impact on families… So I am surprised to see this as a positive and a healthier Denbighshire being down as positive. Is that right when we know there are going to be thousands in our community who are struggling with addiction?”
He added, “I understand what you’re trying to do. But we know where we are. So should they be positive? It feels wrong to me.”
Head of public protection Emlyn Jones responded, “You are right. There are benefits around creating a level playing field for businesses that need licences and so on. But obviously careful consideration needs to be taken around the risks and the detrimental impact of gambling activities when it is not regulated as well, so yes, I take your point, and we’ll certainly review what we’ve got here, just to make sure it is as strong as we can be.”
Cllr Martyn Hogg had similar concerns.
“You have an objective in this policy to reduce crime, avoid criminal activity, to be fair and open, and to protect the vulnerable,” he said.
“And it (the report) goes on to mention there: People who might not be able to make informed, balanced decisions about gambling due to a mental impairment, alcohol, or drugs.
“And then one of the authorisations to site game machines is a premises licence (to sell alcohol). So is this a chink in the armour really? If we are acknowledging that alcohol impairment can make someone vulnerable to gambling, is it then right to allow a premises to site gambling machines?”
Mr Emlyn Jones replied, “Obviously, as we’ve mentioned previously, we are guided by the legislation and the codes of practice that are in place and are set by the UK Government. So we are very much guided by that. But I understand the point you are making.”
The council conducted a consultation, which ran between 12 January 2023 to 22 February 2023, but no representations were received.
The review was undertaken taking into account relevant changes in legislation, national guidance, and good practice, as part of an ongoing process to provide a consistent approach.
The council says it has not received any legal challenge to the existing principles, nor has the Licensing Authority received any adverse comments from the Gambling Licensed Trade or Legal Profession in regards to the content.
Consequently, significant changes have not been proposed in the revised Principles, a position supported by the council’s licensing committee.
The council currently licences/ permits:
5 Adult Gaming Centres
3 Family Entertainment Centres
3 Bingo Premises Licences
12 Betting shops
1 Club Gaming Permit
7 Club Machine Permits
7 Unlicensed Family Entertainment Centre Gaming Permits
11 Licensed Premises Permits
82 Registered Lotteries