Industry sector: Leisure

Amusement arcade: Legal matters

What legislation applies to amusement arcades?

The following is an outline of some of the key pieces of legislation that may apply to your business. The list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Gaming legislation

In Great Britain, anyone who is involved in the gambling industry is likely to be regulated under the terms of the Gambling Act. The Act introduced three different licences - operating, personal and premises. In Northern Ireland, gambling is regulated by the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order.

If you operate an adult gaming centre (AGC) or a licensed family entertainment centre (FEC) in Great Britain you will need an operating licence from the Gambling Commission. You will also need this licence if you supply, install, repair or adapt gaming machines. Both AGCs and licensed FECs also need a premises licence from the local authority. Unless your business is exempt because it is a small scale operation, your staff may need personal licences from the Gambling Commission. A criminal record check is also likely to be required as part of the Gambling Commission licensing process. If you operate an unlicensed FEC you only need to apply for a FEC gaming machine permit from your local authority.

Depending on your operating licence or permit you will be able to operate some or all of Category B3, B4, C or D gaming machines. You can operate machines in these categories that were manufactured before 31 August 2007 - they are called legacy machines. If you decide to substantially alter them, the machines will need to comply with the machine standards introduced by the Gambling Act from September 2007.

You will also need to comply with the licensing conditions and codes of practice for gaming machines and arcades and submit annual returns to the Gambling Commission.

In Northern Ireland, amusement arcades need an amusement permit from their local authority. The machine gaming regulatory regime in Northern Ireland is significantly different to the rest of the UK. Arcades can offer amusement with prizes (AWP) machines with a maximum stake of 30 pence and a maximum prize value of £8, or with a maximum stake of 30 pence and a maximum prize of £25. There are two types of amusement permits available - one that allows an arcade to offer both types of machine and one that allows an arcade to offer only the machines with the lower payout value. There is no restriction on the number of machines. Under 18s must be prevented from using higher value prize machines.

This is a brief overview of the gaming legislation that might apply to your arcade and you should contact the Gambling Commission or the British Amusement Catering Trades Association (BACTA) for further details. More information about gaming machine legislation in Northern Ireland is available on the Department for Communities website.

Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme (ADIPS)

If you operate 'amusement devices' such as kiddie rides you must have them checked every year to make sure they are safe. Most arcades use the ADIPS (Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme) which is administered by the trade association BACTA. Visit the BACTA website for more information about the inspection scheme and the reports you must keep.

Health and safety

You must also make sure that you comply with general health and safety legislation. This covers all aspects of work place health and safety. Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety at work of all their employers and those with five or more employees must prepare a written health and safety policy statement. You should contact your local authority environment health department for advice and guidance. Further information and guidance leaflets on all aspects of health and safety are available on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) websites.

Workplace smoking ban

Don't forget that smoking is no longer permitted in all public places, clubs, workplaces and work vehicles and you must display appropriate 'No Smoking' signs. The legislation varies slightly in different parts of the UK so contact your local authority for details of how the ban affects you. You can also find out more on the HSE website.

Fire safety

All employers must comply with fire safety regulations - this means carrying out a fire risk assessment at your premises and putting in place fire precaution measures. These could include fire alarm systems and extinguishers as well as clearly signed escape routes. If you have five or more employees your fire risk assessment must be written down. You're responsible not only for the safety of your staff but also of anyone who might be on your premises, like customers or suppliers. The Department of Communities and Local Government has produced several helpful guides for businesses. You can download these from the website. Information about fire regulations in Northern Ireland is available on the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service website.

Food safety

If you will be offering café sales you will need to comply with strict food safety legislation. Before you open you must register your business with your local authority environmental health department. There's a great deal of useful information on the Trading Standards Business Companion website.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important pieces of legislation that you must be aware of include:

  • The Employment Rights Act
  • The National Minimum Wage Act
  • The Working Time Regulations

The employing people section of the website includes information and guidance on all aspects of employment legislation. Information for businesses in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Business Info website.

Equality and discrimination law

You must not discriminate against anyone because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation. This applies to every aspect of your business operations, from taking people on to dismissing them. You may need to make reasonable adjustments to your premises and working arrangements so that you don't unfairly discriminate against disabled people.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission for Northern Ireland websites contain further information on your legal duties.