Two weeks after the decision to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs, the analysis of the wider implications of just what the Review into stakes and prizes and social responsibility means for our industry has begun. Aside from the stake reduction, there was seemingly little else to cheer the industry other than an uplift in stakes and prizes for prize bingo. However, argues Bacta CEO John White, there are also good reasons to feel positive and optimistic.
“Any sober reread of the rationale behind the Government’s decisions reflects much of the Bacta position on not only FOBTs but also other products for which we sought stake and prize increases. The industry made some compelling arguments, many of which were accepted. It was the toxicity and predominance of the FOBT debate that meant those arguments could not be fully explored or politically accepted by Government. It is therefore encouraging that we can engage Government as we move forward knowing they have imbibed the core messaging we need to convey. In particular, the document invites us to reopen discussions outside of the Review process around the development of new game concepts as well as revisit stake and prizes on non-complex and non-monetary prize payout Category D machines. The Minister was also explicit in stating her understanding of the pressures facing the FEC sector.
That is all very welcome.
However, the Minister was equally explicit in her expectations around Social Responsibility. The industry will have to work together on enhanced, relevant and proportionate SR measures if we are ever to unlock stake and prize increases or indeed other changes. This is now, even if it arguably was not before, a pre-condition.
The decision to cut the FOBT stake to £2 will make both innovation of product and innovation in social responsibility a whole lot easier as we now have a clarity of opportunity not seen before; one that stems from the whole industry working together for a common goal; one that rests on a level playing field, and one that we cannot ignore. Bacta remains committed to partnership working for the benefit of the industry.
It must be remembered, how- ever, that the decision has no effect until the necessary legislation passes through Parliament. We still have a job to do to ensure the Government’s feet remain close to the fire, but when it does get through Parliament, we can look forward to a strengthened industry, one refocused on sustainable growth.”