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Club Law and Management

by Philip Smith, Secretary of the A.C.C.

Questions and Answers

Q. We have a gaming room in the Club which is home to the Club’s gaming machines and also the Club’s quiz machine. There is a notice above the door saying that persons aged under eighteen cannot enter. We have found that children are entering the room to use the quiz machine. Is it lawful for children to use a quiz machine?

A. The technical reference for a ‘quiz machine’ is a ‘Skill with Prizes’ (SWP) machine. This is a complicated area in law although the general guidance is that these machines do not come under the Gambling Act as the act of playing on these machines does not count as gambling. This means that persons under eighteen can legally use these ‘Skill with Prizes’ machines. However, it is worth being aware that on the 1st February 2013 it is likely that these machines will have category C content loaded onto them which will mean that they receive an age limit of eighteen although it is possible that there will be specific exceptions. This change is due to the introduction of Machine Games Duty and the abolition of AMLD. Therefore the Committee may wish to bear in mind that in less than a year these machines are likely to only be able to be played by persons over eighteen. In the interim period, simply because these machines can be played by minors does not mean that the Committee has to revise its existing policy of not allowing minors into the Club’s gaming room. The Committee is perfectly entitled to continue to locate the SWP machine alongside the Club’s gaming machines and restrict access to the room to persons over the age of eighteen. Alternatively, the Committee may wish to locate the SWP machine outside of the gaming room so that persons under eighteen can use the machine until such time as the machine has an age limit of eighteen imposed.

 

Q. We recently had a disciplinary meeting with an employee and the Committee decided not to take any formal action against the employee due primarily to the employee’s own testimony. It now appears that the employee may have misled the Committee. Can you advise us how to proceed?

A. If it is found that an employee has directly lied to or misled the disciplinary panel then this is clearly a serious matter. I suggest that the Committee invite this employee to a further disciplinary meeting to consider this new evidence. Depending on the answers of the employee in response to the allegation that they lied to or misled the disciplinary panel then the Committee may decide that further disciplinary measures should be taken against the employee. This could be in the form of a final written warning or dismissal if the Committee considers that the employee’s conduct is serious enough to justify gross misconduct.

 
 

Q. We have two gaming machines which are costing us more in rental payments than they create in revenue. Our Members just do not seem to be interested in using them and the annual Amusement Machine License Duty (AMLD) makes having these machines very expensive. Are there any alternative machines which may prove more popular?

A.Many Clubs are now using a B3A Gaming Machine which does not attract either VAT or AMLD and has a maximum jackpot of £500. These have proved popular with Club Members and due to the lack of taxation they are very profitable for the Club. Dransfields, the ACC’s preferred gaming machine supplier, can provide these machines and we suggest that you contact Dransfields to arrange the possibility of an installation of one of these machines into the Club. Dransfields also offer these machines on a revenue sharing basis. Regarding the Club’s existing Gaming Machines, it is always important to establish that the machines on offer appeal to the Club’s Members otherwise they will not be profitable for the Club. If you have a machine which is underperforming then consider replacing it with a different machine in the same category or removing it altogether. Be aware that from the 1st February 2013 that AMLD is being scrapped and a new pay as you go tax (Machine Games Duty) is being introduced. This may benefit the Club if you have gaming machines which are not often used but that you do not wish to remove, since there will be no upfront costs. The Committee may also wish to consider converting to a revenue sharing agreement rather than a flat rental payment for the gaming machines.

 

Q. Recently a Committee Member resigned from the Committee. He is now asking if he can withdraw his resignation or if the Committee could refuse to accept it?

 A. Under the majority of Clubs’ Rules, once a Committee Member’s written resignation has been handed to the Secretary and properly recorded then it cannot be withdrawn. There is no requirement for a resignation to be accepted in order for it to become valid and there is no provision under which a resignation cannot be accepted. All Officers and Committee Members are able to resign from the Committee at any time; it is not possible to refuse to accept a resignation. The Committee can use the Casual Vacancies rule to appoint a replacement person to the vacant position. Under these circumstances, it may be that the Committee decides to re-appoint the person who has just resigned to the position although equally the Committee may decide to appoint another person to this position. If the Committee decides not to appoint this person under the Casual Vacancies Rule then they will have to wait until the next Annual General Meeting in order to stand for re-election.
 

Q. The Committee has received a request signed by 40 Members for a Special General Meeting to be held to discuss the future of the Club’s function room. Whilst we are happy to have a meeting with the Members over the future of this room, is a Special General Meeting the proper forum for such a wide ranging discussion?

 A. I can confirm that the request for the Special General Meeting (SGM) you have received is not, in my opinion, appropriate. A SGM must be called in order to hold a specific yes/no vote. Whilst a discussion may precede the vote, the objective of the meeting must be clear and the precise wording of the motion must be known in advance. The motion that you have received is not precise enough to constituent a legitimate SGM request. In other words it does not guarantee a vote on any specific issue, instead it suggests that a general discussion may be held, possibly with an unknown vote to follow. A notice calling a SGM must be precise in detailing what vote will take place and the wording of the vote that will take place. If Club Members are not clear on the vote taking place at a SGM then they cannot make an informed decision whether they would like to attend a SGM. For instance, I am sure many Members would choose to attend a SGM if the vote concerned an important matter such as the converting the Club’s function room into a snooker room or skittle alley. However, I am equally sure that significantly fewer Members would choose to attend a SGM concerning a vote on a less important matter such as painting the Club’s function room blue. This is why there has to be absolute clarity regarding the vote taking place at a SGM. I suggest that the Committee refuse this request for a SGM and consider holding an informal meeting with Members regarding the use of the function room. This occasion will provide an opportunity for matters and opinions to be discussed, which may assist the Committee, without there being any vote taking place. If the Members wish to re-submit their request for a SGM they must do so by specifying why the Meeting is to be held and the precise wording of the motion they wish the Club Members to vote on.

Q. One of our Committee Members is related to one of the Club’s bar staff. He is a very good Committee Member and works hard for the Club but times are tough and we are considering reducing the Club’s staffing levels. Is it appropriate for this Committee Member to contribute to such a discussion?

A. We would suggest that this Committee Member leaves the Committee Meeting whenever there are discussions relating to employees of the Club. Clearly if the Club did reduce staffing levels this would impact on Committee Member’s relation and as such he has a conflict of interest in this discussion. Please note that if the Committee does want to reduce staffing levels then you will have to ensure that the proper legal formalities are followed. Clubs requiring advice on employment related issues should contact the ACC.

 

Q. We have an appeal which is being heard by the Club’s Arbiters. There is some confusion over who organises the appeal. Is it for the Committee to organise the appeal or should the Club’s Arbiters take control of the entire appeal process.

A. When dealing with arbitration it is most important that the parties involved accept that the situation has now been removed from their hands. Once the appointed Arbiters have had a case referred to them, it is for them to decide how they would like to proceed. They may, for instance, ask that submissions involving the case are made in writing which will then be reviewed and a decision will be made based entirely on these written statements. Alternatively, they may suggest that meetings are held with the affected parties so that questions can be asked and witnesses called if necessary. It is not for the Club’s Committee or the person bringing the dispute to play a part in suggesting how the arbitration should be run. The parties should simply comply with the procedure that the Arbiters have laid out and put their cases to them as effectively as possible. It is for the Arbiters to then consider all the evidence, however it is presented to them, and to make a ruling which will be binding on both parties.

 

Q. We have recently been advised that we are required to have the Club’s electronics PAT tested. Is this correct and if so do you know how much this will cost?

A. I confirm that PAT testing is a requirement and the Club should make sure it is undertaken. You can either have PAT testing undertaken by a Member who has had the relevant training or you can outsource the work to a firm which specialises in PAT testing for businesses. Prices vary throughout the country, typically you might be looking at £1-£2 per item tested with a minimum charge of £50 (so if, for instance, a firm charged £1 per item and tested 50 items then the final cost would be £50 in total). I suggest you research your local area for a competitive quote for PAT testing.