Application made by Merkur Slots UK Ltd for a Premises Licence under the Gambling Act 2005 forMerkur Slots, 95 Rushey Green, London, SE6 4AF, to confirm that the Committee made the determination shown below.
In the matter of the application for a Premises Licence, the Committee has considered the relevant representations made.
The Committee has made the following determination:
With a view to ensuring the promotion of the licensing objectives, in accordance with the provisions of the statutory guidance and the principles of our licensing policy, the application for a premises licence was GRANTED.
In coming to a determination the Committee considered the following matters;
1. The Committee noted the representation made by Councillor Walsh and two local residents. This authority is responsible for protecting children from harm. Children would be at risk from harm if the application was granted because the premises was next to an ice-cream parlour popular amongst young children. Patrons smoking outside the premises would be in the same area as the children queuing for ice-cream particularly in the summer.
2. Although children could not see inside Merkur Slots, the games that could be played were advertised on line. They were colourful and would be attractive to children.
3.1 The Chair welcomed all parties to the Licensing Committee. She introduced those present, and outlined the procedure to be followed for the meeting. She then invited the Senior Licensing Officer to introduce the application.
Senior Licensing Officer
3.2 The Senior Licensing Officer said that this hearing was in relation to a new premises licence application under the Gambling Act 2005 for Merkur Slots, 95 Rushey Green Catford SE6 4A. Three representations had been received on the grounds of the licensing objectives to prevent gambling from being a source of Crime & Disorder and to protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
3.3 The Senior Licensing Officer said that the applicant had offered a set of eight conditions that they believed would uphold the licensing objectives. He then outlined the powers available to members when making their decision.
3.4 Mr Philip Kolvin QC addressed the Committee on behalf of the applicant. He made the following points:
3.5 Councillor Walsh said that the proposed business was located next to Kaspa’s desserts, which was popular amongst young people. He asked for more detail about how the applicant intended to mitigate the risk towards children. Mr Kolvin said that his client had businesses all over the country which were located next to many different premises, McDonalds for example, which attracted children but he had not experienced any difficulties involving children at the premises. This was because, unlike other gambling establishments, no one could see into his client’s premises. There were, however, posters warning that children under 18 years would not be admitted. Historically children had not been interested in the premises, because the machines were not attractive or noisy like seaside amusement arcades. The average age of patrons was over 30 years and the demographic was 50% female. The atmosphere did not attract children. Staff did not sit behind a counter so if a child tried to enter the premises, they would be escorted out immediately. There was no loitering at the premises. Clients came to play the machines for a while and then left. There was no reason for a child to interact with a client leaving the premises than for any other business.
3.6 Councillor Huynh said that one of the licensing objectives was protecting a vulnerable child from harm. Gambling can become addictive. He asked how the applicant defined problem gambling, how they identified problem gamblers and what safeguards they had in place. Mr Kolvin said that his client and the gambling commission defines problem gambling as someone who gambles more than they want to, can afford to or someone whose decisions regarding gambling were impaired. His client ensured that all the rules and regulations required by the Gambling Commission were in place. Inside the premises posters were displayed explaining that gambling should be for fun and if not, gamblers should stop. In addition the telephone number and website for the national problem gambling association was advertised. Mr Kolvin explained the rules of customer interaction and self-exclusion which were taken seriously by his client.
3.7 Councillor Hayes said that there were a lot of gambling establishments in Rushey Green. He asked why an application for a gambling premises had been made in this area. Mr Kolvin said that his client’s business had expanded over the past two years. The premises had been chosen because the unit was appropriate for the business, the rent and lease terms had been a consideration, and there had to be some certainty that planning would be approved. In addition, there was sufficient footfall in the high street.
3.8 Mr Lee-Perrella said that he was a local resident, and strongly objected to the change of use of the property to an adult gaming centre for bingo and gaming machines. He said that there was already an adult gaming centre at 116 Rushey Green and many traditional gaming shops nearby. He named six gaming establishments in the local area. Rushey Green had a high level of anti-social behaviour mostly focused around gambling shops. If this application was granted, Mr Lee-Perrella believed that anti-social behaviour would increase. He said that the damage that gambling was having on our society was becoming clearer, he believed that Lewisham Council should be trying to reduce the number of gambling establishments in the area. It heinously affected the areas of high deprivation
3.9 Members were advised that
· In 2019 the Department of Health and Social Care commissioned a review on the evidence of gambling. The economic burden of gambling on society was £1.27 billion in England in 2019/2020.
· People at risk of harm from gambling were concentrated in areas of high deprivation.
· According to the office of National Statistics, 16.4% of the population in Lewisham was income deprived in 2019. Out of 316 local authorities, Lewisham ranked 51st most income deprived .
3.10 Mr Lee-Perrella said that gambling-related harm ranged from financial, bankruptcy, employment and family issues and could lead to suicide. Rushey Green and the surrounding areas should not be given a facility where they lose money they didn’t have. In addition there was the potential to develop a dangerous addiction that could cost the Council money and society an even worse toll. He recommended that the application be rejected and that members should take a moral and ethical stand by working towards the reduction in the number of gambling establishments and safeguarding the most vulnerable in the community.
3.11 Councillor Walsh said that he was the local ward councillor for Rushey Green and had received a number of complaints from local residents regarding the possibility of another gambling establishment in the area. It presented as a bingo hall but there were terminals inside the premises. It was located next to a children’s facility, Kaspa’s. There was a cumulative and compound effect of having so many adult gaming centres in such a close area.
3.12 Councillor Walsh outlined the impact a gaming establishment could have on the area.
3.13 Councillor Walsh asked where patrons would go should they wish to smoke. He also asked why it was considered appropriate to have a gambling establishment next to a facility for children, Kaspa’s was not similar to McDonalds it was a place where children could buy ice cream and where Disney films were shown. It should not be next to a gambling establishment.
3.14 Councillor Walsh said that in the presentation, members had been advised that the establishment would not be attractive to children. However, the games listed on the Merkur website were very colourful, full of child friendly games and activities. He drew members’ attention to Cashino in Lewisham High Street, which was another operation that the applicant had in the borough. He asked members to consider the impact on the High Street, the clientele it would attract, crime and disorder implications and the impact on children.
3.15In summary Mr Kolvin highlighted the following points:
· The applicant occasionally received objections regarding things that could happen if a licence was granted. There was never any evidence to underpin those fears. These gambling shops operated throughout the country trading next to different establishments including child-centred facilities. Local authorities had not objected to the applications for a gambling licence because the establishments were well run.
· The issues that were irrelevant when considering an application for a gambling licence were set out in the report. The dislike of gambling or a belief that it was immoral were not a reason to refuse the application.
· Anti-social behaviour did not exist in the 220 other establishments managed by the applicant.
· Cumulative impact of gambling was not a concept in gambling licensing.
· Independent evidence had been submitted to prove that patrons did not smoke outside premises.
· Advertising and marketing outside the premises was not directed towards children.
· Mr Kolvin drew members’ attention to the test governing the hearing at page 48 paragraph 30 which explained where a grant of a licence was mandatory.
3.16 In summary Councillor Walsh raised the following points:
3, 17 Mr Bohl then joined the meeting. He was a local residents and opposed the application. He made the following points:
· Prevailing evidence proved that gambling facilities increased the risk of the destruction of social cohesion. He believed that the only way to prevent gambling addiction was not by displaying leaflets but by not having the facility in the first instance, particularly next to a children’s facility.
· Posters outside the shop would be enough incentive for a child to want to enter the premises.
· Lewisham, as the borough of Culture 2021, should not be promoting gambling in such a prominent area as Rushey Green where there were already enough of these facilities.
3.18 The Chair said that deliberation would be made elsewhere and a decision letter would be sent out within 5 working days. She thanked all parties for their attendance, and they left the meeting.