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The Complications of Hosting Slot Machines in Billiard Halls

Mar 11, 2020

Slot machines have been a staple fixture in pubs and commercial clubs for decades, and billiards halls are no different; depending on where you’re located in the world, slot machines may be limited in number or outright banned from specific venues depending on the laws governing the region. In locations that permit the installation and use of slot machines, they’re frequently used as a reliable method of bringing in revenue. However, club owners need to be aware of the additional burdens they bring if they want a fruitful return on their investment.

Legality and Licencing

If you own a pub for example, you are automatically entitled to host two category C or D gaming machines in your premises once you notify the local licensing authority of your intention to make them available for use. Category C machines have slightly higher stakes and payouts, while category D units vary depending on the machine type, and more machines can be applied for later if need be.

For billiards halls and other commercial clubs, it’s a little different. In cases like these, a gaming permit, machine permit or operating license is necessary in order to feature these machines legally. The specifics of the license you need and the process you need to follow to get it vary by region, but having the appropriate license permits a maximum of three machines of categories B4, C, or D to be placed on your premises.

You may also need to pay Machine Games Duty (MGD) if you host machines that offer cash prizes in the UK. This requires registration and regular returns, but means your takings from machine games will be exempt from VAT. Organizations like the Gambling Commission have been known to seize illegally sited gaming machines from billiard halls and snooker clubs, so it’s best to play things by the book – even casinos without license arrangements won’t be able to open until they’ve acquired the correct permit.

Responsibility and Consequences

Any premises that hosts a form of machine game with a gambling element has a responsibility to uphold a core set of principles. Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or being associated with disorder is an unpleasant but necessary endeavour, and ensuring that any gambling is conducted in a fair and open manner is crucial in convincing your customers to return.

Most importantly, care must be taken to prevent any underage gambling from taking place; protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being exploited or harmed by gambling cannot be emphasized enough. There are multiple ways to address this, including situating gambling in a secluded zone for adults only, checking the age of potentially underage players, and refusing access to anyone apparently underage who cannot produce an acceptable form of identification – though regardless of the strategy you use, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

On a lighter note, there are benefits to having slot machines and other machine games in your club. When taking into account the prevalence and popularity of poker and online video games, local venues need all the help they can get with attracting new attention. A little variety can go a long way, after all, and the machines still bring in a regular income and may entice new potential members to visit your billiard hall.  

Some may enjoy a quick break between games of billiards while they take the slot machine for a spin, or happily use up their remaining spare change in the bar’s closing moments on a figurative roll of the dice. Slot machines and other machine games are also really convenient when you need to kill time as well, such as when there are no free tables or between tournament games.

If regulations are adhered to and the machines are used responsibly, there’s no reason they can’t be a positive influence on billiard halls for years to come. It’s almost hard to imagine billiards halls not containing at least a couple, as engrained as they are in the pool and billiards subculture. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing for now.

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