Those in the pub sector with a vested interest in the health of the machine industry have thankfully not been shy about expressing themselves in private and in public about their desire for action on Cat C machines.
The pub industry continues to provide an important pillar of machine industry, so it’s no surprise to hear that the BBPA, as well as other industry groups, making their wishes known to the DCMS in advance of its review of gaming machines.
The focus for these organisations is obviously on Cat C, still the mainstay of pub gaming across the country. Both the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the Association of Multiple Licensed Retailers (ALMR) are pushing for the same stake and prize increase as Bacta. Which would see maximum stakes raised to £2, while the highest jackpot payout would be set at £150.
“The amusement machine offer in pubs needs to be able to develop to meet the expectations of the consumer and very much form part of low-stake, low-prize entertainment in a pub,” said BBPA chief executive, Brigid Simmonds.
“Operating costs for pubs are under pressure from recent increases in the national minimum and living wages, mandatory auto-enrolment pensions for employees, the apprenticeship levy and business rates. Income from amusement machines can be vitally important in keeping many pubs viable, and an increase in prize for category C machines will enable pubs to invest in the business and keep an important social resource viable.”
For some customers, fruit machines are integral to the pub-going experience and an enhanced offer in terms of stakes and prizes can ensure that remains the case.
ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We are pushing for a more attractive offer for customers to ensure that fruit machines continue to play an important role for customers and continue to make their valuable financial contribution. Pubs are facing escalating property and wage costs, combined with the ever-present challenge of very cheap off-licence alcohol. An energised and modernised fruit machine market can be an important revenue stream for businesses allowing them to invest and grow.”
Vitally, the BBPA has also reiterated the call for contactless payment options to be made legal on fruit machines, with a vast and growing percentage of payments in pubs now with the tapping of a debit card.
However, the BBPA and ALMR are acutely aware of the need to emphasise that the introduction of any relaxed legislation requires that the government possess confidence in the industry’s responsible gambling measures.
“Fruit machines represent a valuable source of income for many pubs and contribute to the unique atmosphere of pubs in the UK,” said Nicholls. “Pubs are safe and supervised environments and customers can enjoy them with minimal risk. For some customers, fruit machines are integral to the pub-going experience and an enhanced offer in terms of stakes and prizes can ensure that remains the case.”
Simmonds added: “Any gaming machine use in pubs is overseen by the licensee and their team, and pubs represent, much as they do for drinking, a socially responsible environment. The BBPA already has a code of practice to ensure machines are operated responsibly and we’ll be updating this guidance in the near future.”