Bacta chief executive John White believes the industry has some hard work ahead of it. New innovations in product technology, restoring the public faith in the gaming industry and re- energising the amusements and coin-op sector by placing it at the heart of the economic and social community is on the agenda. It’s a tall ask, but as White suggests, it’s something this industry has been doing all along.
Coinslot: Looking back on the type of year the gambling industry has had, how successful do you feel Bacta have been in regards to its policy objectives? Do you think the amusements industry has “gained” overall in 2017? Are politicians more aware of its importance to both culture and society?
John White: The level of political engagement that Bacta now enjoys is commensurate with what a modern trade association needs to deliver on behalf of its members and I believe that government, regulators and other stakeholders are now much more aware of the issues impacting Bacta members and the contributions they make to society as well as regional and national economies.
The B2 campaign, which is far from over, has increased our level of political engagement and enabled us to communicate with and meet with the key political figures. There’s no doubt that by being on the front foot, more of our political targets are aware of who we are, what we do and why we are important to society at large.
It’s very important to recognise that all of our policy objectives are long term and that we shouldn’t look from day to day. A key example of this is our commitment to social responsibility.
This policy commitment is on- going and is at the heart of what we do every single day. It’s not a tick box exercise but a way of behaving that should be embedded in the heart of the business.
The appointment of Simon Bradbury to the newly created post of Head of Social Responsibility and Compliance reflects the central importance that we as an association place on ensuring that social responsibility is the dominant culture within our member organisations.
CS: After months of attention, the campaign to Cut FOBT stakes has become quieter in the mainstream media, but how is Bacta still working towards that aim of a £2 maximum stake on B2s?
JW: We are now approaching the end game and Bacta is close to finalising its response to the Consultation Document where we will be ensuring all of the arguments are put clearly, forcefully and backed by evidence.
It’s vital that individual Bacta members contact their MPs and underline why it is so important to level the playing field on the high street and remove high stake gaming machines more suited to casi- nos than betting offices. They should also respond to the consultation.
We share the view that there should be a maximum £2 stake and we continue to engage with DDCMS on this matter. To support our arguments we have commissioned a report from the Centre for Economic and Business Research on the impact of a reduction to a maximum stake of £2 which we believe to be half of what the bookmakers claim.
Even using the draft DDCMS impact assessment model and at a stake of £2 the bookmakers will still be taking a mouth watering £1. 2bn a year from Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. We will also be making our arguments in national media.
CS: Following the final Triennial decision, what’s the next big focus for Bacta? If there was one thing you could achieve as a trade association in 2018, what would it be? For example, is there a possibility to open real dialogue about changes to technical standards?
JW: Our National President announced a progressive agenda when he assumed office last Spring and we will be following that far reaching plan covering rebranding in line with the results of the PwC survey, attracting more under 30’s into the industry, driving the social responsibility philosophy, aligning the industry with the tourism sector and fashioning the industry so it is in time with the digital age and modern consumer needs.
Added to this we will be looking at opportunities to cooperate with sister trade bodies, address changes to technical standards and the importance of bringing new products such as our case for a B5 machine to fruition.
It’s a busy, progressive agenda and one which we will be looking to members to be part of and to contribute to.