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Greene King defeated in bid to put bingo in pubs 31/05/17
• The UK Court of Appeal Civil Division has today upheld an earlier court ruling which allows the UK Gambling Commission to reject licence applications, even if the intended party has satisfied all licence requirements.

The ruling gives the UKGC the ability to reject licence applications if it deems them to be inconsistent with its objectives.

It follows a legal challenge by the UK’s largest pub retailer Greene King, who applied for a bingo licence to run bingo games in their 3000 pubs around the UK.

The licence application was refused on the grounds that Green King’s business model was liable to undermine the objectives of the licensing body.

Following this decision Greene King launched an appeal on the grounds that it had satisfied all the conditions set down by the regulator and that as such the UKGC had no grounds to reject the application.

The initial legal challenge by Greene King was successful, however the case was referred to the Court of Appeal for summary judgment after the UKGC lodged an appeal.

The background to the case is that Greene King, which operates over a thousand premises with alcohol licences, had applied to the Gambling Commission for an operating licence to provide bingo and ancillary gaming machines in a limited number of premises. The application was made to the Gambling Commission on 24 May 2012 and was refused at a regulatory panel meeting on 26 February 2014.

Greene King appealed to the First-tier Tribunal and the decision of Judge Warren on 8 December 2014 was to allow the appeal and quash the decision of the Gambling Commission. Judge Warren stated in paragraph 31 of his decision: “…here in my judgment they (GC) were trespassing on territory which the Act assigns to Licensing Authorities…the Commission’s purpose in refusing the applications and indeed the only justification for doing so is to prevent Greene King from applying for a premises licence”.

The Gambling Commission appealed to the Upper Tier Tribunal and were successful. Many were waiting for this decision were disappointed that the decision did not look at the specifics of the actual Greene King application as the decision deals with simply whether or not the Gambling Commission acted within its powers. The Upper Tier Tribunal was not asked to and therefore did not determine the actual application by Greene King. The Upper Tier Tribunal was asked to rule on whether the First-tier Tribunal decision was legally flawed.

So Greene King went higher still but The Court of Appeal supported the UK Gambling Commissions argument, stating that the UKGC was entitled to consider and find the proposed operation of that licence to be inconsistent with the licensing objective and refuse that licence accordingly.

In a statement regarding the ruling, Helen Venn, UK Gambling Commission Programme Director said: "We welcome the Upper Tribunal’s decision, which clarifies the Commission’s powers.

“In our view 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.”

No comment was forthcoming by Greene King.