The UK Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the power of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to reject license applications of operators even if they satisfy the criteria set by the commission.
In a decision dated May 25, the UK Court of Appeal’s Civil Division threw out the appeal of pub retailer and brewer Greene King challenging the upper tribunal’s ruling in favor of the UKGC.
It would be recalled that the UKGC in 2014 refused Greene King’s application for bingo licenses despite being satisfied “to the suitability and competence of [Greene King], and persons relevant to the applications, to offer the proposed licensed gambling activities.”
The Upper Tribunal Judge Howard Levenson earlier ruled that the UKGC was correct in interpreting the provisions of the Gambling Act when it thumbed down the application of Greene King for bingo licenses despite stating it was satisfied with the requirements of the pub.
This prompted Greene King to elevate the case to the appellate court to seek redress against the UKGC, which it believed to have acted outside its powers.
But the appellate court, in affirming the Upper Tribunal’s 2016 decision, pointed out that the UKGC is not obliged to issue an operating license to pubs in those circumstances if it believes doing so would “be harmful to the statutory licensing objectives” set out in the Gambling Act.
“In the context of a proposal for full commercial bingo in a busy working pub, the [UKGC] Panel were able to draw upon their own expertise and experience of the relationship between gambling and alcohol – and that of the Commission’s officers – and the historic data and reports such as the Budd Report,” the decision, penned by CA Lord Justice Gary Hickinbottom, read.
Concurring with the decision were CA Lady Justice Mary Arden and Lord Justice Peregrine Simon.
With the Gambling Commission’s powers now clarified, Greene King’s case will now be reconsidered by the first-tier tribunal. The Court of Appeal said it will be up to the tribunal whether it agrees with its conclusions “on their merits.”