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New Gaming Machine Licence Conditions

On 17 July 2002, the Department wrote to all societies operating gaming machines on public premises reminding them that, before 1 October 2002, they must ensure compliance with certain requirements of the licence condition changes introduced on 1 October 2001. These requirements were:

  • Gaming machines must not be the primary activity on the site.
  • The site cannot be part of a building or premises where there is currently an approved site.
  • The site must have an on-licence with a designated supervised or restricted area and the machines must be operated within that area.

Some societies provided the information we requested about their compliance with these requirements and we will be taking that information into consideration when we check for site compliance after 1 October this year.

Since our letter in July, the Department has received a number of letters from societies raising concerns about certain aspects of these requirements. This update addresses those concerns and sets out the Department's position.

Primary activity
With our letter in July, we provided a list of factors that will be taken into account when determining whether gaming machines are the primary activity on a site.
The Department will apply those factors consistently and objectively in making licensing and compliance decisions.

Multiple sites
The Department has considered a number of cases involving more than one site in a building or premises. It has advised societies that we are prepared to consider granting dispensations from this condition if the societies involved with multiple sites in any given building or premises give a written undertaking agreeing to limit the total number of gaming machines in the building or premises to no more than 18. Such dispensations will be considered only in relation to those sites that were in this situation at 1 October 2001.

It has been argued that the meaning of condition 14(2)(b) must be interpreted narrowly and couldn't be applied to sites approved prior to 1 October 2001. The Department rejects this view.

The licence condition clearly states that the site is not to be part of a building or premises where there is currently an approved site. It also states that all sites approved prior to 1 October 2001 shall be made compliant no later than 1 October 2002. To give some guidance, the Department has taken the approach that, in the context of this condition, a building or premises is the area under the same roof and within contiguous walls. Sites connected to one another by way of shared facilities or direct access between the sites for patrons or staff are deemed to breach the condition.

Liquor licences
The major area of concern for some societies appears to be the fact that certain sites have found that they cannot obtain the required form of liquor licence. Typically, these sites are restaurants or providers of activities not connected with liquor (eg. tenpin bowling, snooker). These sites usually have an on-licence without any designated area and generally are open to persons of all ages. Many of these sites can reasonably be described as family entertainment centres.

While most societies appear to accept the Department's decision to refuse to approve new sites of this kind, some societies argue that the Department should permit sites that were approved prior to 1 October 2001 to continue in operation. The general argument put forward is that the Department is being unfair and unreasonable in applying this rule to existing sites, especially where the site is unable, for reasons beyond its control, to obtain the required form of liquor licence. Some societies have suggested that the Department should be more flexible and allow other mechanisms to be used to provide control of under-age access, for example the Trespass Act and/or directives issued under licence condition 16.

The Department has considered these arguments and proposals, but has not been persuaded that there are grounds to change its policy on this matter. The Department's view is that the requirement for an on-licence with a designated area is the most appropriate measure for restricting under-age access to gaming machines.

In the Department's opinion, an on-licence without a designated area does not provide a sufficient degree of restriction on under-age access. The Department's primary concern in this context is to minimise the harm associated with the operation of gaming machines, particularly in respect of children and young persons.

The Department has reviewed the arguments put forward in relation to sites without the required form of on-licence in certain Licensing Trust areas. It is acknowledged that, in areas where the Licensing Trust has not given up its exclusive right to hold on-licences in respect of hotels and taverns, other sites will not be able to gain on-licences for such premises. However, that situation does not prevent a site obtaining an on-licence with a designated area. Section 14(5)(g) of the Sale of Liquor Act clearly provides for on-licences to be issued with conditions designating areas as supervised or restricted. The only barrier appears to be the willingness of the district licensing agency or the Licensing Authority to issue such a licence, or modify an existing licence, in any specific case.

The Licensing Authority has made clear statements in relation to premises at which gaming machines are the primary activity. The Department supports those statements as they are consistent with its policy relating to gaming as a primary activity. The Department sees no basis in these matters for changing its policy.

Conclusion
The licence conditions introduced on 1 October 2001 made it clear that non-compliant sites had to be made compliant no later than 1 October 2002. Societies will have to remove their gaming machines from sites that cannot be made compliant. The Department will be checking sites for compliance with the licence conditions and will be taking steps to revoke site approvals for non-compliant sites. Those steps will be in accordance with the procedure set out in licence condition 22 and its guideline.

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Last updated: 18/02/2004