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Wanstead pub faces being stripped of its gambling machines after failing to stop children playing on them

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 November 2019

Landmark locations across Redbridge. The George Wanstead

Landmark locations across Redbridge. The George Wanstead

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A Wanstead Wetherspoons may be forced to get rid of its betting machines after staff there repeatedly failed to stop children from using them despite previous warnings from the police.

Redbridge Council's licensing committee will meet next week (Tuesday, November 19), to decide whether or not to strip The George Public House in Wanstead High Street of its gambling machines permit, which it has held since August 2012, and strip it of its automatic right to two betting terminals.

The pub currently has seven machines, five which it was required to apply for a permit for, and two which all pubs are automatically entitled to under the law.

The borough's licensing officers had previously conducted two operations at the pub which saw police cadets under the age of 16 enter the pub and use two gambling terminals.

Despite being in full view of the bar and the pub's staff, on each occasion they were able to spend £3 on the machines without being challenged.

Both times, the entire episode was witnessed by two plain clothes police officers who had entered the pub before the cadets.

JD Wetherspoon was informed after the first incident that it had failed to carry out its statutory duties under the Gambling Act 2005, and in response an area manager for the company assured Redbridge's licensing team that more training would be carried out.

In an email dated January 31 2019 - two days after the pub failed the first police operation - Wetherspoon's area manager Danny McClusky wrote: "Following the recent test purchase we have taken immediate action in the pub by retraining all employees on their responsibility in relation to Challenge 21.

"This has been done through e-learning and verbal discussions with all team members.

"We rely heavily on our floor teams to stop people under the age of 18 from playing our fruit machines and this will help the team understand this.

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"The entire team are on high alert and will be much more vigilant moving forward."

The George failed its second underage test purchase operation on June 18 2019, when two 15-year-old cadets walked into the pub unchallenged, stood next to the gaming machines for two minutes and then spent £3 playing on the machines.

Following that second failure, notice of a proposal to rescind the pub's gambling machine permit and remove the premises entitlement to two machines was sent on July 10 2019 to the company's head office.

JD Wetherspoon responded on July 26 advising that further measures were being taken by the licence holder including to review the location of the machines in the bar and reducing the total number of gaming machines from seven to four.

Again, refresher training was to be given to staff on Challenge 21 with signage displayed on the premises.

Nigel Connor, the company's head of legal, wrote: "JD Wetherspoon regrets the failure of the two test purchase exercises at the pub.

"The company sets a very high bar in relation to all areas of regulatory compliance and it is disappointing when that bar is not reached, as is the case here.

"We do take limited comfort from the fact that, outside the circumstances of the test purchase failures, we are not aware and have not been made aware that the pub is compromising the three licensing objectives.

"Our area manager for the pub, Danny McClusky, also tried to contact the authority on several occasions to discuss the steps taken after the second failure, to see if it considered them satisfactory.

"We would of course be more than willing to meet representatives of the authority as an alternative to the enforcement action proposed, in order to show that the necessary measures are in place at the pub to avoid any reoccurrence."

Options in front of the council's licensing sub-committee on Tuesday November 19 include: taking no action, removing the pub's gambling permit altogether or modifying it with further conditions.

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