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Bingo in pubs: Gambling Commission wins Greene King appeal

In a much-anticipated decision, the Upper Tribunal has found that the Gambling Commission acted within its legal powers when it refused to grant Greene King a bingo operating licence to provide commercial bingo in its pubs.

In the first gambling appeal ever to reach the Upper Tribunal, Greene King argued that the Commission had exceeded its powers when it refused to grant an operating licence enabling Greene King to offer bingo as well as high stakes (B3 and B4) gaming machines in some of its pubs. They submitted that the Commission's refusal trespassed on the territory of licensing authorities carrying out their premises licensing functions.

Judge Howard Levenson rejected those arguments. Instead he found that the Commission as national regulator has the legal power to refuse an application for an operating licence if it considers granting the application would not be reasonably consistent with the licensing objectives. He therefore ordered the case to be sent back to the First-tier Tribunal for reconsideration.

The Commission's position is that commercial betting, gaming and bingo and any associated high stakes and prize machines, should only be provided in separate premises licensed for that specific purpose – premises that adults make a deliberate choice to visit in order to gamble.

The full judgment can be found here.

Philip Kolvin QC and Christopher Knight represented the Gambling Commission.