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Drunk in Charge of a Gaming Machine

Understanding your responsibilities for vulnerable people

Q:  I run a busy City Centre pub and we have three new Category C gaming machines in the area in front of the bar.  I noticed last week that the new machines are starting to attract customers who have not previously gambled.  One of these players particularly plays later in the evening after he has had quite a few pints to drink.  He seems to play without giving the game too much thought, I imagine because he has been drinking alcohol.  I know I have a responsibility not to serve people who are drunk, but is there a similar responsibility in relation to the gaming machines

A:  One of the licensing objectives under the Gambling Act 2005, which permits the gaming machines to be in your pub, is the protection of the vulnerable.  Although there is no statutory definition of a vulnerable person, it would include those who have had too much to drink and are therefore not as aware of their actions when gambling.  You do therefore have a general social responsibility to customers who have been drinking and are playing on the gaming machines.  The Gambling Commission issue a Code of Practice for gaming machines in premises with an alcohol licence.  It requires you, as a condition of your permission to have the gaming machines, to situate the machines where they can be supervised, which you do.   Although there is no specific condition regarding the protection of the vulnerable, you should consider, under your wider responsibility to protect the vulnerable, taking steps to talk to the customer to monitor their behaviour, and if you feel it warrants it, suggesting that they maybe should not be playing on the machine when they have had a lot to drink.  Particularly look for behaviour which may suggest they are struggling to control their gambling such as exaggerated emotional responses to playing, aggression towards the machine, or frequent trips to obtain more money to play.  This is on top of your existing responsibility in relation to drunk people on your premises under the Licensing Act 2003.

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