Betting Offices: Location, Location and Location
Licensing, Public Law and Judicial Review
A decision by a London borough to refuse a betting office licence has been overturned, in a decision which examined the relevance of location as an independent ground of refusal.
Ladbrokes applied for a licence in the pedestrian centre of Uxbridge, adjacent to the underground station and the retail heart of the town. The London Borough of Hillingdon refused the licence based on a number of locational factors: that this was a high profile, pedestrian area extensively used by children; that it was adjacent to family-oriented cafes; that it was in the same locality as drug and alcohol treatment facilities, drop in centres and the like; that the proposal was inconsistent with the character of the area; and that other bookmakers had suffered problems with drug deals in their vicinity, the risk of which should not be allowed here.
The Magistrates’ Court allowed the appeal and granted a licence without conditions. It held that there was no reason to believe that granting the licence would be a cause of crime and disorder, bearing in mind the fitness of the operator and their policies and operating procedures. The Court was content that Ladbrokes’ method of operation and the procedure for statutory review would address any concerns regarding public disorder or crime.
The import of the decision is the court’s acceptance that location is potentially relevant, in so far as it relates to the licensing objectives, but that the operator’s proposals for mitigating any risks arising from the location remain key to a fair gambling determination.
Philip Kolvin QC of Cornerstone Barristers acted for Ladbrokes, instructed by Julia Palmer and Rhiannon Daniel of Trethowans.