Anyone wanting to operate an amusement arcade must apply for an amusement permit.
We issue amusement permits to premises that have amusements with prizes machines (normally known as gaming machines).
Except in the case of renewals, applicants should first get planning permission for the proposed development before applying for a new amusement permit.
Amusement permit policy
We have developed an Amusement Permit Policy which will guide you through our application process.
What is a gaming machine and an amusement arcade?
A gaming machine (or amusement with prizes machine) is any machine which is used for playing a game of chance by inserting money into it with the aim of winning money.
An amusement arcade is defined as a premise which is being used wholly or mainly for amusement by gaming machines. We deem this to be the case when there is at least one more gaming machine than all other types of machines in a venue.
Registered clubs, bookmaking officers, commercial bingo clubs, public houses and licensed hotels do not need an amusement permit to have gaming machines, though other aspects of gambling legislation in NI may apply to gaming machines in these establishments.
Anyone applying for an Amusement Permit, under the Betting and Gaming (NI) Order 2004 and the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries & Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 must comply with our requirements.
Who needs an amusement permit?
- Anyone who currently provides, or wants to provide gaming machines in a premises, or;
- Anyone intending to run a pleasure fair which consists wholly or mainly of amusements (not lasting more than 28 days) within the Belfast City Council area.
You must be 18 or older to apply for an amusement permit.
If you want to renew an existing permit, you must also apply to us.
If you aren't sure whether you need a permit, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call our licensing team on 028 9027 0650
What types of permits are available?
The type of permit we issue depends on the nature of gaming machines you would like to have in your premises.
There are two categories of gaming machines:
- one that allows the machines to payout a maximum cash prize of £25 – as defined by Article 108(1)(ca), (these machines are restricted to persons over 18 years of age) and;
- one that allows the machines to payout a maximum cash prize of £8 - as defined by Article 108(1)(c) (there is no age restriction to the use of these machines).
Apply for an amusement permit
Apply for a permit by downloading the application form below and returning it by post, along with the relevant documents and fees, to:
Head of Building Control Service
Health and Environmental Services Department
The Cecil Ward Building
4 - 10 Linenhall Street
You can also use this form to apply for the provisional grant or renewal of an amusement permit.
As part of the application process, you must supply us with a range of documents relating to both you and your premises.
- Plans of the premises - for new grant applications only
- Planning approval certificate - for new grant applications only
- 2 character references - for new grant and renewal applications
- A financial reference - for new grant and renewal applications
Remember, we only accept originals of the documentation required – we do not accept faxes or photocopies. Documents will be copied and the originals returned to you, if requested.
When requesting the documentation from a third party please refer the officer or referee to the guidance notes attached to the application form.
Please allow us a minimum of 28 days from the date we receive your application to process it.
During this time we consult with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and take any observations they make into account. We also give interested parties the chance to express their views.
The licensing surveyor will also inspect your premises during this time. It is therefore important that you provide us with plans of your premises, as we can't progress your application or carry out an inspection until we receive them.
Amusement permit advertisements
Within 7 days of making your application you must publicly advertise the application in accordance with the instruction and wording outlined in the "Amusement Permits Advertisements" information sheet. You must advertise in three of the four named newspapers on the information sheet. You must submit copies of the advertisements to us.
All applications for amusement permits must be referred to the Licensing Committee for their consideration. However, if, during the 28 day consultation period we receive objections to an application from interested parties both you and those who object to your application will have the chance to present a case to the committee.
If an application is refused by the council, applicants have the right to appeal the decision. Appeals must be lodged with the County Court within 21 days of you being informed of the decision. Their decision is final.
How much is the amusement permit fee?
- Gaming machines with a maximum all cash prize of £8 as defined by Article 108(1)(c): £32
- Gaming machines with a maximum all cash prize of £25 as defined by Article 108(1)(ca): £250
What happens after an amusement permit is issued?
Applicants must not allow gaming machines to be played on their premises until a decision has been made about their application and a valid amusement permit has been issued.
All amusement permits issued are granted for a 12 month period under the condition that: "the premises are not to be used for an unlawful purpose or a resort of persons of known bad character".
There are other conditions restricting anyone under 18 years of age from entering venues with gaming machines that have a maximum payout of £25.
We can also specify:
- how the premises are illuminated,
- the form of advertising and window display used, and
- how notices are displayed on the premises.
The PSNI enforce amusement permit legislation. Their officers inspect amusement arcades to ensure that they are being run properly and they can prosecute any amusement permit holder who does not comply.