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Agenda item

City Gaming - Caledonian Road, N1 1BB - New premises licence (Gambling Act) 2005

Minutes:

The licensing officer reported that four document bundles, a skeleton argument and policies and procedures had been circulated following agenda publication.

 

The licensing authority noted the condition offered by the applicant which made provision for two floor staff to be on duty for the first three months and this to be reviewed with input by the licensing authority and the police. A condition regarding engagement with community groups was also noted.  She had not withdrawn the representation and stated that this was an area of high deprivation with high crime levels and was the second highest in the Borough and the third highest in London. She raised concerns regarding the lone working policy and drew attention to the procedure on page 221 of the circulated documentation which stated that staff would be alone until another trained person arrived and they would need to ask for help. There were benefits in having two staff dealing with a situation. She also noted that people suffering from addictions had been omitted from the safeguarding policy statement. She raised concerns that the Licensing Consultant had visited the Adult Gaming Centre (AGC) in Chapel Market during the day when there is a busy shopping area outside. He had not attended in the evening or at a vulnerable time for staff. She said that the Sub-Committee should make their decision based on the applicant submissions and the concerns of residents and councillors.

 

In response to questions, the Licensing Authority stated that the premises could be attractive to offenders released from prison and was concerned that the applicants had not taken into account vulnerable adults with addictions. This was a high crime area. She considered that there should be no lone working as there was a duty of care to staff and this had not been addressed in the documentation. Staff should work in pairs in order to tackle aggressive people.

 

The local resident stated that the premises would not protect vulnerable people from harm and would be a hub for anti-social behaviour. Residents were seriously concerned about the destructive effect of gambling. There was a  primary school and adventure playground nearby and the premises normalised gambling behaviour. The Caledonian Road area was a local shopping area with a high level of deprivation with high numbers using local food banks or street drinking. The presence of an AGC would negatively affect these residents and was believed to be a source of crime and disorder and gang related harm.

 

The ward councillor, Paul Convery, stated that he wished to speak to the large number of documents circulated on Friday and stated that the assertions contained within these documents were untrue. He stated that this part of the Borough had one of the highest numbers of crime and disorder and disadvantage. He stated that the evidence detailed on page 28, paragraph 23, from the Licensing Consultant was incorrect. He had looked at the data and had seen that this part of Caledonian Road around premises No. 310 had a high level of crime. The Licensing Consultant had visited during the day. He did not see drinkers at 5pm, drug deliveries and had not seen evidence of gang related activity. Visiting in the daylight did not give you a full history of the neighbourhood. This was one of the areas of very high deprivation, with a highly vulnerable population. There was a cluster of three gambling premises within 100 metres. He stated that the Sub-Committee should reject the application. The applicant had not secured planning permission. There was a deficient risk assessment. The applicant had changed evidence to recognise the foodbanks in the area but had made no change to the assessment of those risks.

 

Further residents stated that the proposal contravened the licensing objectives of prevention of crime and disorder and protection of children from harm. There was a steady stream of undesirable activity, loitering and this would be a hub for illegal activity. The introduction of an AGC would reinforce these behaviours. On the applicant’s own risk assessment the operating hours served to perpetuate this behaviour. When looking at other witness statements by the Licensing Consultant they had noted that he had supported six other applications and the statements had all been similar.

 

The applicant’s representative stated that in addition to the mandatory conditions required for AGCs, additional conditions had been proposed in response to comments made by the responsible authorities. AGCs had never been subject to a review or had been a regulatory concern. The bundle circulated to parties pointed to his clients record with 54 other premises and he stated that the premises would not add to the crime and disorder in Caledonian Road. In respect of crime and disorder the police had not objected.  He stated that AGCs rarely generated crime and disorder, alcohol was not permitted, there was no loitering, ATMs would not be permitted, no sports screens, high quality CCTV and staff on the shop floor interacted with customers. Lone working was not unusual in this situation, Challenge 25 was operated on the trading floor and customers entered a controlled environment. Vulnerable persons had been considered throughout the papers. Training was given regarding responsible gambling messaging, conflict management and signs of vulnerability. It was acknowledged that every High Street was frequented by the vulnerable but the risk assessment and the best practice measures detailed in the Gambling Policy had produced a list of conditions. The applicant’s representative stated that he was happy to consider other conditions and to involve the Licensing Authority in staff training.

 

In response to questions, the applicant’s representative stated that there would be two staff on duty at all times for the first three months of trading. There would then be a further risk assessment which would take into account the number of customers. There may be periods of time in the morning where there were no customers in the premises. They took lone working seriously and would risk assess with this in mind. The applicant’s representative stated that the legislation had been put in place to aim to permit the licence but the applicant had to demonstrate that it had responded to the risks. He stated that the AGC provided a more transitory/passive activity with a greater relationship with staff. Staff welcomed customers and got to know local clientele. Betting offices tended to not engage with customers and vulnerability concerns tended to be higher for betting offices than for AGCs. Online betting had no supervision. He stated that betting offices had large peaks of clientele watching the screens and loitering. In an AGC there were usually 1 – 5 people with usually a maximum of 8. There was no seating area and clients usually came alone or in couples. The police had no interest in Adult Gaming Centres as they caused no issues. He invited the Sub-Committee to visit an Adult Gaming Centre to see customer experience. There were 27 Gaming Centres across London and this area was ranked 7th in terms of deprivation. The police had not put in a representation and they had experience of the area. There was no evidence that prisoners had presented issues in the Gaming Centres. If there was a risk this would be something that would be considered when reviewing the risk assessment.  It was noted that Pentonville prison had not been consulted on the application. It was irrelevant under Statue as to what the AGC brought to the area although there was a removal of unlimited stake and prize gambling in this case as there were three betting offices and now there would be two betting offices and one AGC. This would broaden the mix. A betting office tended to have a longer dwell time for customers. An AGC had a shorter dwell time of 15 minutes. Customers tended not to loiter. Staff would take it seriously if customers stood around in groups although this did not tend to occur in AGCs.

 

In summary, the Licensing Authority stated that this was a highly sensitive area. She had visited quite a few AGCs and they had always been lone working.

 

The ward councillor stated that this had a representation against the application from the Licensing Authority. The AGC in Chapel Market was not a comparator. He considered that the evidence was erroneous and misrepresented the Caledonian ward. The prison risk had not been measured. Every location was unique and this was a high risk area with vulnerable young people and the application was contrary to policy. A local resident raised concerns regarding the inducements given to parents and the children seeing the effects of gambling.

 

The applicant stated, as detailed on page 349 at 5.31 of the bundle, that licensing authorities should not turn down applications where objections could be dealt with by conditions and as stated at 5.34 should not base their decision on moral or ethical grounds. The Sub-Committee must base their evidence on the evidence.  There were 32 conditions that comprehensively answered objections and the Sub-Committee had a primary obligation to grant. The applicant’s representative submitted that the statutory test set out on page 350 had been met for points A-D. The applicant’s representative asked the Sub-Committee to grant the application.

 

RESOLVED

1)   That the application for a premises licence, in respect of City Gaming Limited, 310-312 Caledonian Road, for use as an adult gaming centre under the Gambling Act 2005 be granted.

2)   Conditions detailed on pages 41 to 44 of the hearing bundle circulated separately shall be applied to the licence.

 

REASONS FOR DECISION

This meeting was facilitated by Zoom.

 

The Sub-Committee listened to all the evidence and submissions and read all the material. The Sub-Committee reached the decision having given consideration to the Gambling Act 2005 and its regulations, the Code of Practice and guidance issued by the Gambling Commission and the Council’s Gambling Policy.

 

The Sub-Committee noted submissions from the Licensing Authority, local residents and the ward councillor regarding high levels of deprivation and crime in the vicinity of the premises. The Sub-Committee noted that the police had not made a representation.

 

The Sub-Committee noted the conditions that the applicant had agreed with the licensing authority and was satisfied that these would address concerns raised regarding lone working at the premises. The conditions also addressed the licensing objectives and the Council’s Gambling policy in respect of crime and disorder and protection of children and vulnerable persons. 

 

The Sub-Committee concluded that the test in Section 153 of the Gambling Act had been met. The applicant had offered an extensive list of individual licence conditions and had demonstrated that it operated all of the protection measures set out in the Council’s Gambling Policy. The applicant had carried out a full risk assessment and engaged with the police and licensing authority and it was of note that there was no objection from the police.

 

The Sub-Committee noted that the Council’s Gambling Policy provided that applicants are recommended to have been granted planning permission for the intended use before making an application for a premises licence. It was also noted that Section 210 of the Gambling Act provided that the Licensing Authority shall not have regard to whether the applicant is likely to be permitted planning permission. The Sub-Committee therefore concluded that, the fact that the applicant did not have planning permission, was not a ground on which this matter could be determined. 

 

The Sub-Committee concluded that the premises would be subject to regulatory controls through mandatory conditions and the additional conditions offered by the applicant. The Sub-Committee concluded that it was therefore appropriate to grant the licence sought.

 

 

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