We have encountered some misunderstanding, not least on the part of the Gambling Commission (the “Commission”), as to the nature and status of personal management licences (“PMLs”). These licences are required for individuals performing certain defined functions in the gambling industry. Holders of PMLs can be held personally liable for failures on the part of entities holding an operating licence.
The Gambling Act 2005 (the “2005 Act”) provides that a PML has effect unless and until it ceases to do so, by reason either of surrender, lapse, forfeiture or revocation. The Explanatory Notes for section 131 of the 2005 Act, which deals with duration of PMLs, specifies that
“Subject to surrender, lapse, forfeiture or revocation, all personal licences will be of unlimited duration. The Commission does not have the power to introduce limited durations for personal licences.”
However, regulations do provide that a PML holder pay fees every five years of the tenure of the licence. The Explanatory Notes to the 2005 Act explain that these fees are to be paid by the PML holder to the Commission to maintain the licence, and which are used by the Commission to cover the costs of regulation.
On its website the Commission sets out the maintenance process, which involves completing an application including provision of various documents (ID documents, a DBS application (UK and Channel Islands), police report (if overseas) and credit report (if overseas)) and paying the £370 fee. PMLs will no longer receive a maintenance pack in the post. Instead, the Commission will send an email, to their registered email address, informing them that they can sign in to the Personal eServices to start the maintenance process. We understand that this email will be sent on or shortly before the PML anniversary date. If the application is not made within 30 days of the anniversary date (five years from issue and every 5 years thereafter), then the licence will be revoked. Subject to that, and provided of course that the application is properly completed, the process is automatic; it is not a renewal application, and therefore cannot involve any reappraisal as to the PML holder’s qualification, fitness or suitability to hold such a licence. Any such question must form the subject of a licence review under separate provisions.
Until recently there was a reference on the “Personal licence maintenance” page of the Commission’s website to “renewal” of PMLs. This has now been corrected as a result of submissions made by Harris Hagan, that this was wrong in law, as there was no such provision or power. Nevertheless, there is a leftover of this on the webpage, in the inappropriate use of the word “application” to describe the process; this assumes that there is something the Commission is being asked to grant, and therefore something which can be refused, which it cannot. This is an automatic process, the purpose of which is solely the provision of updated information about the PML holder, such as for example, current address and position, and payment of the fee. It is for the Commission simply to check and record the information.
Whilst this may seem pedantic and of little importance, it is vital that the Commission does not assume powers which it does not have, and that PML holders are not confused about their position, or stressed by a pending “application”, which they may believe could be refused. This concern has been thrown into sharp focus in circumstances where PML maintenance has been delayed, or put on hold, by the Commission on the misconceived ground that enforcement action was current in relation to the PML holders’ employer, which potentially could, at some future date, result in a licence review of PMLs. Once your PML maintenance is submitted and the fee paid, and providing this is within time, your obligations are fulfilled. The Commission may ask for further information if necessary. Otherwise the PML continues, and there is no question either of grant or refusal. Job done!