Bacta Convention – The focus of policy-makers

Coinslot Bacta Convention Sarah Harrison diversity
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Sarah Harrison lays out the areas that top gambling policy-makers agendas as part of her recent speech at the Bacta Convention.

The gambling review is the key focus for Government and policy-makers. Its focus is not just on stakes and prizes consistent with a traditional triennial review, it is also looking more widely at the impact of industry actions on social responsibility and on the impact of advertising on public attitudes and behaviours.

As you know, the Gambling Commission is not a decision-maker on the questions of future stakes and prizes – those powers are reserved to government – but we have a key statutory role to provide advice to government which we are taking very seriously.

Clearly I am not in a position to tell you yet what our advice will be. What I can say is that we will be drawing on a wide range of evidence from industry, from consumers and the public, and from our own expert adviser, the RGSB. The industry input will include analysis of actual machine play across B2 and B3 machines for the period before and after the introduction of the government’s £50 regulations. This represents at least 20 billion bets over 422 million play sessions. We are also hoping to obtain comparable data on B3 machines from both AGCs and Bingo.

A key focus for us in approaching our advice will be to acknowledge on the one hand the right for players to enjoy machine play, while also ensuring the protection of players, including those for whom gambling-related harm can be a real problem to their welfare and that of their families, employers and society.

You of course have your own priorities which may include arguments in favour of FOBT stake reductions, and an uplift in stake and/or prizes for B3 machines, as well as changes to Cat C and D machines prizes and technical standards. The gambling review provides you, and all those with an interest in gambling, to have your voice heard and I encourage you to support your case with your own evidence.

Government is also preparing for the implementation of the 4th anti-money laundering directive. The Treasury consultation is now closed and we have contributed our advice. It will now be for the HMT to decide. Whatever the outcome you have my assurance that the Gambling Commission will work with you to prepare for any change, and ensure that any action required to implement measures is taken proportionate to the risk.

A further area for government decision, and closer to home, concerns the future licence fees regime which is due to come into effect in April 2017. In shaping our advice we have worked through proposals including testing these in consultation and in stakeholder workshops.

While we await a final decision, our proposals mean that fees would be held at steady state for around 1000 operators; with increases for only around 75 operators based on a proportionate allocation of costs; and reductions for some 1900 operators, many of whom would be businesses in this sector. We hope for a decision before Christmas and a move to a fairer and more sustainable fee recovery system, which should help the small/medium-sized operators.

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