Greene King win appeal against Gambling Commission’s bingo licence ban
09:25 11 December 2014
Greene King has promised to trial new commercial bingo games with its customers after winning a landmark appeal against the Gambling Commission.
The Bury St Edmunds-based brewery, which operates about 1,000 managed pubs, applied to the regulator earlier this year for a bingo operating license to offer ‘linked bingo’ –where players can join a national game for big cash prizes via electronic tablets or terminals.
The application was refused after apparent concern over the development of commercial bingo in pubs and the possibility of opening the floodgates to other applications.
Now, following an appeal by Greene King, First-Tier Tribunal case Judge NJ Warren has quashed the refusal and sent the matter back to the Gambling Commission with a direction that the application should be approved.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for Greene King, which is a member of the EADT/EDP Top100 listing of the 100 largest companies in Suffolk and Norfolk, said it was delighted by the ruling.
She added: “We are pleased to have been granted an operating licence which, when coupled with a premises licence, will allow us to provide commercial bingo within our pubs. Bingo is a game loved by many of our customers and is already played across the pub estate.
“This ruling will enable us to trial new games with our customers, giving them more choice about where they play the game and put our pubs even more firmly at the heart of their communities.”
Rob Willock, editor of leading trade magazine Publican’s Morning Advertiser, said the ruling would help the region’s pubs be more competitive.
He added: “When it turned down Greene King’s application for a bingo operating licence, the Gambling Commission said it was over fears that an approval would open the floodgates and thousands of pubs would immediately be clamouring for the right to shout ‘two fat ladies’.
“I don’t think they have any reason to worry but Greene King’s successful appeal does add to the growing list of attractions pubs have to offer. Pubs can now boast food as good as any restaurant, coffee that can easily rival a Costa or a Starbucks, an entertainment calendar as busy as any theatre and will now be able to compete with Mecca and Gala for the traditional bingo demographic.”
Mr Willock said: “What many pubs are striving to do is ensure that they have something to offer throughout the day, so perhaps afternoon bingo sessions could be a real winner for pubs in a position to capitalise on this decision.”
The move comes as more traditional bingo halls face closure to tax increases. Earlier this year Winners Bingo in Hatters Street, Bury St Edmunds closed after 20 years of trading. A spokesman for the firm, which still operates bingo clubs in Thetford and Wisbech, said the “dramatic rise in popularity” of online bingo and the smoking ban had meant their takings were down.