The Gambling Act 2005 (which established the new regulator for gambling, the Gambling Commission) governs all forms of gambling apart from the National Lottery and spread betting. The key licensing objectives of the Act are:
- Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime
- Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
- Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling
The Gambling Act specifies three categories of licenses that may be issued – Operating, Personal, and Premises. The former two are issued by the Gambling Commission whilst the Premises license is issued by Local Authorities. Under the Act, licensing authorities are required to prepare and publish a Statement of Principles which sets out the policies that the licensing authority will generally apply to promote the Licensing Objectives when making decisions on applications made under the Act.
Local authorities are required to establish a licensing committee made up of local councillors in order to carry out their functions. This is supposed to give local residents a greater say and promote democratic accountability about gambling within communities.
When an application for a premises licence is made, external parties, such as residents, the police or environmental health, may make representations about the application. The licensing authority can consider all relevant representations and other factors, at a hearing before making its final decision. However, unlike the Licensing Act, the licensing authority itself can challenge an application as one of several organisations designated as “responsible authorities”.
In making its decision on an application, licensing authorities can impose flexible sanctions such as restricting hours of operation, requiring extra staff and limiting gaming machines to ensure that the specific issues or concerns of their community are adequately provided for.
The Act also makes it possible for licensing authorities to act in the interests of local residents. Local residents or responsible authorities can seek a review of a licence for any particular premises.
The question that many are asking is how active Southall’s Councillors are (and have been) in making representation on behalf of residents in relation to applications for gambling licenses. It comes as no great surprise to learn that too many Southall councillors have a distinct lack of interest in such matters, let alone any desire to take any positive action to stop the continuing decay of Southall.
Sadly Sharma, the Ealing Southall MP, appears to share a similar ambivalence on the issue of Southall being in pole position to become West London’s gambling hub. Yet Sharma continues to clutch on to his job of councillor, whilst only paying lip service to his duties as a councillor. According to figures published on Ealing’s website, Sharma has the lowest attendance record of Council meetings – he has only attended 33% meetings he was scheduled to attend during 2008.09.