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UK government unveils modernization plan for land-based gambling sector

16 May 2024

(PRESS RELEASE) -- The U.K. government is set to introduce a series of measures aimed at modernizing the country's land-based gambling sector. These changes, outlined in a response to a consultation on the industry, include relaxing certain restrictions on casinos, arcades, and bingo halls while also implementing safeguards to protect young people and enhance licensing authority fees.

In a statement released today, Stuart Andrew, the Minister for Sport, Gambling and Civil Society, highlighted that many existing restrictions were outdated, based on assumptions that predate the rise of online gambling. The government's approach aims to strike a balance between consumer choice and protection from harm, reflecting the evolving landscape of the gambling industry.

These measures complement other ongoing regulatory changes, such as the introduction of a stake limit for online slots and a statutory levy to fund research and treatment initiatives.

Here is the complete statement:

I wish to inform the House that His Majesty’s Government will today publish its response to the consultation on measures relating to the land-based gambling sector. This will introduce a range of liberalizing measures for venues like casinos, bingo halls and arcades, alongside other provisions to protect young people and children, as well as increasing the fees licensing authorities can charge for gambling premises licenses.

Many of the current restrictions on venues like casinos and bingo halls derive from the assumption that restrictions on the supply of gambling, such as the number of gaming machines available in a venue, were an important protection. The legislation had not envisaged the rise of online gambling and the ability to gamble at any time, regardless of location. In light of this, restrictions on availability are now less important for protecting customers than factors such as the characteristics of the product and the quality of monitoring a customer’s play in a venue. As set out in the Gambling Act Review white paper(opens in a new tab), the measures we consulted on are therefore necessary to modernize the outdated and overly restrictive regulations that apply to the land-based gambling sector.

The consultation ran from 26 July to 4 October 2023 and invited views on the details of a range of proposals relating to casinos, arcades and bingo halls. Following consultation, the Government will introduce the following measures:


We will make a number of adjustments to relax the existing rules that apply to casinos. There are currently two types of casino license - those originating from the Gaming Act 1968 and those created by the Gambling Act 2005. 1968 Act casinos are generally allowed only 20 gaming machines regardless of their size, compared to up to 80 for Small and 150 for Large 2005 Act casinos. Following consultation, we will bring the regimes closer together so that 1968 Act casinos can offer more machines to meet customer demand where it is proportionate to their size and non-gambling space. We are also extending the ability to offer betting as a product in casinos, which will bring Britain’s casino product offering more in line with international jurisdictions.

Machine allowance in arcades and bingo halls

We will adjust machine allowances for arcades and bingo halls to allow greater flexibility over their gaming machine offer. Currently, no more than 20% of gaming machines in adult gaming centers and bingo premises can be Category B machines (with a £2 maximum stake), with the others required to be lower stake (Category C or D machines). The Gambling Act Review concluded that this rule is no longer required to offer customer protections, unnecessarily restricts operators and can lead to a number of machines being placed in venues that are not used by customers. Therefore, we will introduce a 2:1 ratio of Category B to Category C and D gaming machines. This measure will apply on a device type basis, meaning that the ratio applies to the three different types of device on which gaming machines content is currently offered in arcades and bingo halls, namely large cabinets (such as traditional fruit machines), smaller cabinets placed in between larger machines (in-fills) and tablets.

Cashless payments on gaming machines

We will remove the prohibition on direct debit card payments on gaming machines, alongside the introduction of appropriate player protections. The prohibition on the direct use of debit cards on gaming machines was intended to protect players. However, the use of non-cash payments has increased greatly across society since these rules were put in place and some sectors, particularly machines in pubs, are seeing business disappear because customers do not carry cash. We will help future-proof the industry by removing this prohibition subject to appropriate player protections being put in place. The Gambling Commission will also 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. These protection measures may include minimum transaction times, cardholder verification, transaction limits, breaks in play and staff alerts when mandatory and voluntary limits are reached. This measure will only come into force when we are confident that the right player protections are in place. Existing limits on stakes and prizes for all categories of gaming machine will remain unchanged.

Age limits for certain gaming machines

We will introduce an age limit for certain Category D gaming machines. Category D machines are low-stake games that can be played by anyone regardless of age. The Gambling Act Review concluded machines which mirror adult slot machines and pay out cash should be made unavailable to children. These are also known as ‘cash-out’ slot-style Category D machines. Therefore, we will make it a criminal offense to invite, cause, or permit anyone under the age of 18 to play these particular types of machines. This builds on the existing voluntary commitment implemented in 2021 by Bacta, the amusement and gaming machine industry trade body, banning under-18s from playing this type of machine in their members' venues.

Licensing authority fees

We will increase the maximum cap on the premises fees that can be charged by a licensing authority. Licensing authorities (local authorities in England and Wales, licensing boards in Scotland) play an important role in regulating gambling through licensing premises and enforcing license conditions. The cap for their licensing fees has not been updated since 2007, while the costs associated with licensing have increased. We will therefore increase the maximum cap that licensing authorities can charge by 15%. The gambling fees payable in Scotland will continue to be set by Scottish Ministers.

Together we believe these measures will support the land-based gambling sector and modernize the current outdated restrictions, as well as helping to protect young people and supporting licensing authorities. These measures also complement the other changes that we are progressing relating to gambling regulation, including the introduction of a stake limit for online slots and a statutory levy to fund research, prevention and treatment. As outlined in the gambling white paper, we are making sure that we have the right balance between consumer freedoms and choice on the one hand, and protection from harm on the other.

Gambling policy is devolved in Northern Ireland but substantially reserved as regards Scotland and Wales. In some cases, the power to deregulate (e.g. to increase the number of gaming machines a casino may make available) is reserved, but the power to put appropriate protections in place to support that deregulation is devolved in Scotland. Where this is the case, our deregulation will extend only to England and Wales unless and until appropriate protections are in place in Scotland. It will be for Scottish Ministers to decide how to exercise the powers conferred on them by the Gambling Act 2005.

We will lay the necessary legislation to implement these measures in due course.

I will deposit a copy of the response to the consultation in the libraries of both Houses.
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