Jason Frost looks back on all that Bacta has achieved under his stewardship

Coinslot EAG BACTA JasonFrost initiative
Share this article

As he approaches the end of his presidency, Jason Frost looks back on all that Bacta has achieved under his stewardship and explores the key challenges that the industry has tackled

 

Coinslot Review: You have been associated with Bacta first as a member and then as its president for many years, how has the Association changed over that time span?

Jason Frost: My family’s association with Bacta dates back nearly four decades. My family were showmen and my Coinslot BACTA Jason Frostgrandfather travelled the fairs with an arcade way before my birth and when the family had seaside arcades in Selsey West Sussex, my father became a Bacta member – this would of been around 1972/73.

As an adult making my way in the industry I have been involved with the association for 20-years. First with the South West region, then in Division 3 as vice chairman and then chairman, followed by vice president and then national president. When I first held office at Bacta the act was in its final days before it became law. That was a quite difficult period for the business and we were about to have a new regulator.

Following the Act we had the smoking ban, new regulation and to top it all a recession the likes of which had not been seen for a long time. Relationships became strained with the regulator and the DCMS, but Bacta was able to change and adjust as it always does and today I think we are a professional association in that we have risen to the challenges of the new regime and the new evidence based policy making of government. We deliver on behalf of our members and I believe we are responding to the demands and expectations – both from within and outside the industry – to sustain a professional relationship which is founded on integrity and trust.

 

Bacta: “Sustaining a relationship… founded on integrity and trust”

 

CS: How do you think Bacta is regarded by external stakeholders, in particular by the Gambling Commission and DCMS?

JF: We enjoy a good relationship. Of course it’s inevitable that we will disagree, sometimes very strongly, on some issues, but it’s in our long term mutual best interests to be able to contain any fallout and keep the relationship positive whenever possible.

I believe the DCMS appreciates the ability we provide to be able to talk with the industry – even though sometimes they don’t appreciate the difficulties of relaying information to the members, but that’s a small matter. We should never lose sight of the fact that DCMS is, in fact, our sponsoring department. That’s a two way relationship and one which we have been relatively successful in nurturing and developing.

But to answer the original question and from their dealings with me, I believe both DCMS and the Commission respect our role and what we bring to the debate.

CS: Is there a dislocate between the culture of entrepreneurship which the industry was founded on and the civil servants responsible for regulating the business?

JF: Yes, but I guess that will always be the case. Sarah Harrison is a very professional leader at the Gambling Commission and she has said in many of her speeches, “we are the regulator and we are here to regulate.”

This goes without saying and they have a tough job, but let’s not forget that part of their remit is to “permit gambling as long as it is crime free, fair and open and children and other vulnerable people are protected.” I think that this is a statement that we all welcome.

As far as a dislocate goes, that will always be the case. I wish that the Gambling Commission and indeed some of the other advisor groups to government could actually see what it is like in an AGC or an FEC. How we interact with our customers and how relationships are made and see what compliant, responsible, and indeed sensitive, businesses we run.

This is extremely hard to get across to someone who in their everyday life would probably never go into an arcade of any kind and when they were chosen for the job one of their strengths would of been their ability to relate with politicians and government not their ability to relate to one of our customers.

 

“….Bacta lobby every day for our industry and in some cases it is the unnecessary burdensome regulation that Bacta has stopped in the past that goes unnoticed by the members….”

 

CSR: What do you say to those organisations within the industry who have chosen not to become Bacta members or have not renewed their subscription?

JF: For manufacturers and distributors, membership of Bacta is a no brainer. The discount they receive on their stand at EAG alone covers the membership. For operators, the access they have to Bacta’s compliance team is invaluable both in terms of planning for the future and in crisis situations.

Overall, Bacta provides access to members of parliament beyond the individual’s constituency MP and we have been able to take our arguments to government in a way that individual companies simply cannot.

Added to this we have the body of robust economic and social research that Bacta has commissioned and which is such a fundamental requirement when representing the industry with government, and persuading politicians in this evidence based world in which we live.

I have focussed on the big ticket items, but there’s also a raft of member services that, in my opinion, make it great value for money: our self exclusion scheme, access to ADR scheme posters and printed material available and the in-depth knowledge of John and his team at the office is only a call away.

Bacta lobby every day for our industry and in some cases it is the unnecessary burdensome regulation that Bacta has stopped in the past that goes unnoticed by the members. Bacta has been a very well run organisation from its inception and many people have taken positions within Bacta to ensure it stays that way and I would encourage non members to join but also to attend the meetings and play a part – this is our Bacta.

 

CSR: It’s widely accepted that you leave Bacta in good shape – what do you see as the key challenges the association will have to respond to in 2017?

JF: There’s obviously lots of political and economic challenges which Bacta has to be, and is, prepared for. It’s important to ensure that Bacta membership is an attractive and relevant proposition and I would like to see us forge closer relationships with other trade associations around the world.

We must also keep an eye on our cost base and run a tight ship. Always remember that Bacta is a members organisation owned and run by the members and they should be treated as such. Bacta should continue to promote itself with a view to attracting more members and concentrate on members benefits where possible.

 

CSR: Do you think the Whitehall machine regrets the original decision on FOBTs?

JF: In a word ‘YES’. To have a machine on the high street with a £100 stake every 20 seconds is so far out of kilter with the triangle of risk adopted by the previous Gaming Board and although the £50 regs were introduced, the truth is that you can still play £100 per spin at a 20 second time frame just by registering to do so. Moreover the amount of play up to £50 has increased dramatically. If they could re-write the book, would they be allowed under the current government – I think the answer would be no.

At the recent launch of the Peter Collins research at the House of Commons – a body of research we at Bacta commissioned to ask the question “Will reducing the stake on FOBT’s reduce the harm caused by problem gambling?” (to which the answer was yes by the way) – I had the pleasure of meeting with Sir Alan Budd. I have since re-read the original Budd Report and it makes sense, but I asked him the question “Did you ever imagine that this is where we would end up with 35,000 FOBTs spread across 9,000 LBOs the length and breadth of the country?” his reply was simply, “no, they are not in keeping with the tone of the Act.”

The ABB has said that the growth on their terminals is now on the B3 games, well if this is the case the question must then be if you have a product as contentious as the FOBT, which attracts nothing but bad press and has indeed tarred the whole industry, an industry that I know and love, then why not remove the FOBT content altogether thus eliminating the bad press and, as is proven by the Collins research, reduce the harm caused by problem gambling?

It has been said that a problem gambler often gambles on up to six different mediums and this may well be true, but the accessibility of these machines, four in every LBO in the land, must be cause for concern.

Previously, the FOBT customers would have had a bet over the counter, but these bets were usually thought out, with the punter studying the form, discussing it with friends and watching the race or match – so time was invested in the bet. Now, that same customer can lose £300 a minute playing roulette in a high street bookies and could play more than one machine at a time if they so wished.

I have been asked whether my objection is an economic one and my answer has been ‘Yes’, but this is because of the social and repetitional damage that these machines have created for the gambling sector as a whole. If you want evidence of the proliferation of FOBTs, whilst you’re at EAG why not take a look at what’s happened in the London Borough of Newham?

CSR: And finally, on to a more lighter note, as we saw at the Bacta Convention you are not shy about requesting VIP ‘Selfies’ – but has anyone turned you down?

There is some background to the selfies. It started at the Conservative Party Conference in 2015. I was new to the Presidency, quite nervous and standing at the bar with John White one evening when Theresa May, who was then Home Secretary, came up to me and introduced herself. I’d noticed that she had been in some selfies earlier in the evening, so rather than launch into a discussion about the Triennial or B2s I asked for a selfie, she said yes and our conversation went from there. It’s a great ice breaker!

Not only has no one said no to a selfie but last year the Rt Honourable, David Evennett MP, who covered for Tracey Crouch when she was on maternity leave, actually asked John and I for a selfie. I think the photo of David, myself and John White still features on his constituency web site!

Coinslot Jason Frost Selfie Montage


Share this article