Land-based Gambling: DCMS Consultation Response

United Kingdom

Following its consultation on “measures relating to the land-based gambling sector”, DCMS published its response on 16 May 2024, broadly proceeding as planned with its proposed reforms.

Since then, the Government has announced that a general election will be held on 4 July, raising the question of whether or not this could hinder the implementation progress of these reforms, as well as those other areas still being consulted on by DCMS and/or requiring legislative change to implement.

Consultation response

Broadly speaking, the aim of the Consultation - which you can find our note on here - was to iron out inconsistencies between the different types of casino licence and also to level the playing field between online and land-based gambling regulation. 

Having now considered the responses to the Consultation, the Government is now proposing the following:

  • Increasing to 80 (from 20) the number of gaming machines that 1968 Act casinos are allowed (bringing this in line with small 2005 Act casinos), subject to complying with certain minimum requirements.
  • Applying a single machine to table ratio of 5:1 to all casinos with a gambling area of 280 square metres or more.
  • Updating the gambling area size requirements for different types of casinos.
  • Allowing all casinos to offer betting (which was previously restricted to 2005 Act casinos).
  • Increasing the ratio of higher stake Category B gaming machines to lower stake Category C and D machines allowed in arcades and bingo halls to 2:1. This change comes following DCMS having issued a supplementary consultation to all initial respondents to the land-based gambling consultation.
  • Allowing cashless payment methods on gaming machines provided that they require account holder authorisation/verification subject to consulting on what principles and player protections should be put in place. The Gambling Commission will also consult on a number of player protection measures for inclusion in the Gaming Machine Technical Standards relating to this.
  • Legislating for the current voluntary commitment that ‘cash out’ Category D slot-style machines should only be played by those aged 18 or over.
  • Increasing the maximum premises licence fees which can be charged by local authorities by 15%.

Implementation and the general election

The areas of reform with DCMS responsibility for progressing (as opposed to the Gambling Commission), are at various stages. Some consultations (such as that on reviewing Gambling Commission licence fees) are yet to be launched, and others have closed but we are awaiting DCMS’s response (such as that on the statutory levy). Given DCMS’s response has been published, the land-based reforms are more progressed, however, implementation of all key changes will require some form of legislation to be passed. Given the election, this will not realistically happen now until a new Government is formed.

Implementation involves a combination of different statutory instruments, which are either enacted by the ‘affirmative procedure’ (these instruments cannot become law unless they are approved by both Houses of Parliament) or the ‘negative procedure’) (these instruments become law on the day signed by the Minister  but can be annulled by either House during the following 40 sitting days ): 

  • DCMS states in the consultation that it expects the changes in respect of gaming machine allowances, ratios and size requirements, as well as betting, in casinos to require two statutory instruments, one affirmative and one negative.
  • Regulations in respect of machine allowances in arcades and bingo halls will be introduced through an affirmative statutory instrument.
  • Direct debit card payments on gaming machines will be allowed through a negative statutory instrument.
  • The age limit for Category D machines will be implemented by an affirmative statutory instrument.
  • Finally the maximum cap that licensing authorities can charge will be increased by 15% through a negative statutory instrument.