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Local authorities are warning of chaos and confusion unless the Government gives them at least three times longer to implement new gambling laws.
In a letter to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Local Authorities Coordinating Office on Regulatory Services chair Geoffrey Theobald said that authorities were put in an "unacceptable position" after the Licensing Act, when councils were swamped by applications, and that authorities would need at least six months to draft documents, train staff and put in IT systems to avoid a repeat situation.
The DCMS will not issue the secondary legislation needed for councils to draft their gambling policies until November, leaving councils just two months to finalise policies before applications flood in on 1 February 2007.
Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) head of regulatory Craig Baylis commented: "The way the Government has acted beggars belief. The Government screwed up massively on the Licensing Act and this could be even worse. "[Gambling] operators have to go through the application process and they don't even know what the form's going to look like. For the industry as a whole, the cost is going to run into millions just to apply."
A DCMS spokesperson said: "Lessons have been learnt from the Licensing Act. Our plans reflect the key lessons, which include keeping transitional arrangements as simple and clear as possible, and having regular formal and informal discussions with stakeholders."
While the Licensing Act involved 200,000 applications, she added, the Gambling Act will involve just 13,000.