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New controls on gambling in Westminster to protect the most vulnerable

Published: 29 September 2021

Westminster City Council is consulting on a unique new gambling policy that aims to protect people who may be vulnerable to gambling-related harm and gambling addiction.

The council is consulting local residents and businesses on its new gambling policy which sets out zones where new gambling venues will be challenged on whether they will be suitable, based on the potential impact to local residents.

The policy aims to strike a balance, appreciating that gambling venues play a key role in Westminster’s local economy and that the city’s large casinos draw tourists into central London.

The policy has also been updated to reflect the changes in the gambling industry over recent years, such as introducing new measures associated with the use of new handheld technologies within licensed premises.

The new policy will ensure gambling venues are well-managed, considering the impact on the local area and protecting the most vulnerable residents. Key changes to the policy include:

  • a new Local Area Profile - detailing the specific gambling related risks across Westminster
  • a new Risk Assessment Policy - setting out the expectations and requirements associated with the assessment of gambling related risks of operating a gambling premises.
  • a new Hours Policy - specifying the hours for gambling operations within the city. 
  • three new Spatial Policies which will consider the risks to those who live, work and visit the area of a proposed gambling operation.
  • new Premises Use Policies for each of the gambling premises, focusing on the key considerations associated with the operation and management of those premises.
  • revised policies on other gambling permissions – setting out our approach to authorising lower risk gambling permissions.
  • new policies relating to enforcement and compliance - post serious incident assessments, reviews of licences and cancellations of gambling permits.

The Council has launched two consultations to gather the views of local residents and businesses. We are:

  • consulting on extending the current gambling policy past the statutory policy review date of the 31 January 2022 until the new policy comes into effect
  • consulting on the new policy, which would come into effect early in the new year.

To ensure a wide variety of local stakeholders have an opportunity to give their comments, the consultation on extending the current policy will run from 27 September to 24 October.

The consultation on the new policy will run from 27 September to 28 November.

Councillor Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning, said:

Responsible gambling makes a significant contribution to the Westminster economy providing a draw for thousands of tourists each year.

However, we need a policy that recognises the potential harm arising from gambling. Gambling-related harm can plunge some of our most vulnerable and at-risk residents into desperate situations, and in the most serious cases can lead to mental health problems, debts that cannot be repaid, and even crime or suicide.

This policy aims to strike a balance by allowing casinos, betting shops and other gambling venues to operate responsibly and fairly, while putting greater emphasis on the risks and safeguards they can put in place to protect people from gambling-related harm.

I encourage residents and other local stakeholders to have their say and respond to our consultations.