Page 1 of 1

Report 1: The Law on Gaming Machines

Posted: Thu Dec 11, 2003 12:32 pm
by woodpen161
This is one of three reports posted briefly on eBay UK in the Coin-Operated category before eBay removed them. Because they're relevant to us, I'm re-posting them here.

Report 1: The Law on Gaming Machines

The sale, supply, maintenance and commercial operation of gaming machines is governed and controlled by the Gaming Board, mainly under the Gaming act of 1968.

It's had loads of amendments, but this is the beast that criminalises a lot of decent people.

Basically it works like this

Unless you have a gaming board licence, which currently costs £5920, it is illegal to "sell, supply or maintain" a gaming machine.

There are a few exceptions for travelling shows, end of the pier arcades, or when selling them "as scrap", but basically any method of handing a machine from one private collector to another (including giving them away) is illegal (without a license).

So, what IS a gaming machine?

The legal definition is

ANY machine which
a) Is constructed or adapted for playing a game of chance by means of the machine, and
b) has a slot or other aperture for the insertion of money or money's worth in the form of cash or tokens.

The act goes on to clarify some of these terms, and specifically mentions that if there is an element of chance in the game, and that element is provided by the machine then you have a "gaming machine". BUT if the gaming machine itself doesn't payout anything, then it is a "gaming machine not used for gaming", and does not require a license.

The gaming board's interpretation of "game of chance" is quite creative! Apparently a "game of chance, is a game that involves any element of chance at all. They have told me that "skill machines" are not covered by this act. Specifically mentioning Juke boxes and pintables. But then they have told other people that flickball machines and those 1930s. "cranes" have an element of chance and are therefore gaming machines (requiring a license).

The gaming board also told me that their duty is to apply the law as it stands, and that they would not object to a change in the law to decriminalise the sale and repair of vintage machines. They also say that their job is to enforce the law, not to interpret it. The courts do that. So, if the gaming board feel there is an infringement, they take you to court for the law to decide how to punish you. In other words, the first part of the interpretation DOES lie with the gaming board. At present, they take the view that only machines that pay out coins or tokens are gaming machines. So, for the time being your trade stimulators and pintables are safe.

You can sell such machines to the following without needing a licence:

a) to persons whose business is to sell or supply machines
b) by a finance company whose interest in the machine is solely one of finance
c) the sale of the machines as scrap
d) the sale of machines as part of the fixtures and fittings of premises which are for sale or let
e) the sale or supply of machines to a travelling showmen"s fair, an amusement arcade, a pleasure park, or a pleasure pier.

The act itself does not say that if you sell to a person whose business is trading in the machines, you have to check whether he has a license.

I cannot find anything in the act that defines a sale "as scrap". The act does not say that a "scrap" machine must be broken/not working. It may be that you can "sell" a perfectly good machine as "scrap", and the buyer may decide not to scrap it after all.

There are no legal restrictions on the ownership of gaming machines, or buying them.

It is only sale supply and maintenance that it controlled.

So if you run a small sideline restoring vintage one armed bandits, or occasionally freeing up a jammed coin for a friend (unless you do it for free), then you"re breaking the law.

It all quite simple, really. Completely bloody stupid, but nevertheless simple.

Just to add to the Alice in Wonderland scenario, whereas giving a machine to your son for Christmas requires you to pay nearly £6 thousand for a license, for about £35 (depending on where you live) you can get an operators license, which will allow the general public into you living room to play the machines. But be careful, should one fail to pay the right number of coins, it is illegal for you to make up the difference.

Yes, for £32 (in Devon) you can get a license to operate machines for profit, you can buy machines, but if you want to sell them on or maintain them £5920.

In Gosport, you can only get a license to operate them in an amusement arcade. They won"t issue operating licenses for anywhere else, and they charge £250.

I am still trying to establish what the maximum fine is, but I can tell you that you face up to two years imprisonment for selling that "Win a Polo" Allwin. Somewhat more than you"re likely to get if you take up burglary instead

Although gaming is going through a lot of "deregulation", all that is actually happening is that operators are being allowed to install more machines with higher stakes and higher jackpots. Meanwhile of course, "sale supply or maintenance" of vintage machines remains fundamentally criminal!

So that"s the legal position. If you want any more information about the law, you could try the contacts below.


One of the machine experts at the gaming board: Martin Bennewith:.

Gaming Board web site: Not very useful: Gives contact details but does not have link to see a copy of the acts of Parliament it is there to enforce.

The Act is not available on line. On line only goes back to 1988

ATE on line: ATE claims to be The global business portal for the gaming and gambling industry. Web site:

They have a section on gaming, a "wanted" section, and a legal link to

I tried to email Joelson-wilson as their site suggested, but got no response whatsoever. I suspect they could see no profit in it, and so weren"t interested.

The cabinet office where some responsibility for the law resides. Douglas Alexander is the minister for the cabinet office. His email address is:

BACTA is an organisation that represents machine owners.

An excellent website, that summarises the legal position even better than I do. Although BACTA say that pintables are by definition gaming machines, but the gaming board specifically says they are skill machines.

I have emailed

No reply yet, but they do seem to be more concerned with tightening the rules for machine operators rather than letting people like us get on and enjoy our hobby.