Yesterday the Department of Culture, Media and Sport launched its consultation on licence requirements for overseas online gambling firms and another on a proposal to allow the Tote to offer pool betting on all sports. Three days previously the Gambling Commission announced that it has cautioned three men under the Gambling Act 2005 following a joint investigation with Cheshire Police and The Safer Halton Partnership into unlawful poker at a Runcorn pub. In October last year, the Commission produced a guide to help landlords ensure poker is offered legitimately on their premises. Commercial poker for unlimited stakes can only be played in casinos and licensed card clubs.
Two men aged 35 and 56 respectively were cautioned for their part in providing unlawful gambling and a 50 year old man received the same sanction for allowing the premises to be used for unlawful gambling. The investigation found that poker was being played in a function room at the rear of the Cherry Tree pub for stakes in advance of the statutory maximum.
Low stakes poker is permitted in pubs as long as stakes are kept below £5 a head and £100 per premises per day. A significant number of poker leagues operate legitimate low stakes poker in pubs around the country and these cautions for providing illegal poker in a pub are the first of their kind under the Act. Commenting on the operation, the Commission’s Regional Compliance Manager for the North West, Alan Green said: “This investigation is a good example of joint partnership working in keeping gambling fair and safe for people in Cheshire. The case serves as a reminder to those responsible for managing pubs of their responsibility to monitor gaming on their premises.”
The Horserace Totaliser Board, commonly known as the Tote, currently has an exclusive licence to take pool bets on horse racing. The consultation launched by the DCMS proposes to extend its powers to allow it to take pool bets on all sports. Other bookmakers can currently offer pool betting on all sports excluding horseracing. Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: “The proposed move should come as welcome news to bookmakers across the UK. Not only will this allow the Tote to remain competitive and offer best value to the taxpayer when it is sold, it will also bolster the businesses of other bookmakers who will be able to offer punters more choice.”
The consultation on licence requirements for overseas online gambling firms relates to an announcement made by Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe in January 2010. The plans, which are subject to a 12 week consultation period, would mean that online operators currently licensed outside Britain will have to apply for a licence from the Gambling Commission if they want to advertise or provide their gambling services to British consumers. Gerry Sutcliffe said: “Online gambling has changed significantly in recent years with many European countries taking new approaches to regulation. It would be wrong of us to stand still where things are changing around us - especially where the protection of British consumers may be at stake.” (E-03.23.10)
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