Police have clamped down on charity filmed horse race nights in Ashburton pubs. The fun nights have been held in pubs across Teignbridge for donkey's years without any problems, But the clampdown could create a massive hole in the funds of charities and organisations in the town. The matter reared its head at Ashburton Town Council's monthly meeting, when Cllr Mike Posner called it a ludicrous situation. He said the Exeter Inn had to cancel a race night because of the gaming laws. This week, Teignbridge Licensing Officer PC Keith James stressed legally gaming nights such as this in pubs was against the law. People needed to seek advice as to the right road to take. Landlord Jim McNicol had arranged a race night on Saturday, had programmes printed, had sponsors for the event and 'owners' had bought horses. Annually, it is the biggest fundraiser for Ashburton Football Club, and it was expected it would have brought in between £700 and £1,000. 'Ashburton is a small place and the football club needs the funds, as well as other charities in the town. We did hold one each year for the cricket club and the carnival committee. 'If we cannot hold events like that the community loses out,' he said. The race nights have been held at the Exeter Inn for charity for more than 12 years and it came out of the blue to Mr McNicol when the police said he would be breaking the law if he held the annual event. 'We were very disappointed and tried to work out alternatives, but the police officer made it fairly plain that if we did any event that evening he would prosecute me. 'I have no intention of breaking any law and I am hoping something can be worked out in the New Year,' said Mr McNicol, who added that the sponsors of the event had promised to still give their money to the football club. At the Bay Horse public house in North Street, Ashburton, licensees Dave and Linda Wykes have not had a visit from the police, but have decided to call off a planned race night for next Friday. That would have benefited the Ashburton Pre-school. 'Evidently, through the gaming laws you cannot hold a race night and you can not advertise it. It can be held behind closed doors and all the profits over the bar have to go to the charity as well. 'A race night is a good night for fun and raising money for charity and they have taken place for a long long time. 'We are disappointed at not being able to hold it because we try to help in the community and this was for a good charity,' said Mr Wyke. PC James told this newspaper that he had been to see the licensee to explain the legality of the event which had been planned for Saturday and to advise on the law regarding filmed race nights. 'Where we are talking about public houses, generally the gaming act will not apply because you cannot have gaming in public places. 'The route you have to take is to go down the Lottery and Amusements Act, Section 15, 1976 – the information is available on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website which has a piece on race nights. 'That explains how they can be run and the part that has to be complied with,' said PC James. He added that they advised anyone who put on any form of event involving gaming and lotteries that they should seek independent legal advice. They could be run as lotteries if it was a private club and was strictly controlled for members. 'In general with holding race nights, it must not be the only substantial inducement and there must be an exempt entertainment such as a bazaar, fete, or dinner-dance. 'It cannot be the main event. The whole of the proceeds of any entertainment, after deducting expenses, must be devoted to a purpose other than private gain. That would include their bar profits. 'Because the race night cannot be the only substantial attraction, you cannot advertise it as such. That would in itself make it illegal,' said PC James. He emphasised it was not a new law, it had always been the case. 'At the end of the day if anyone wants to put on any of these events we are there with the advice for them,' he stated.
Charity nights fall at legal fence
Friday 24th November 2006 12:00 am