John White, CEO of Bacta, provides an overview of the trade association’s inflation wishlist for B3 machines in the current triennial review, putting the question to the Gambling Commission: “Why is our business any less important than the bookmakers?”
As the government reviews the current state of stakes and prizes, amusements trade body Bacta continues to push for a fair and considerate approach to a sector that has suffered from disparity on high streets for over a decade.
The only issue on the agenda directly relating to B3 machines is a request to increase stakes to account for inflation, which CEO John White explained will raise cash-boxes to compensate for rising high maintenance costs.
“From the triennial review all we’ve asked for is for an increase in the maximum stake to £2.50 from the current £2,” White explained. “Our analysis is that it would probably move cashboxes forward by about seven percent, it’s an inflationary increase more than anything.”
Indeed for the amusements industry, inflation is a burden not easily shared with customers, something often forgotten by those on the outside.
“The key thing that we keep emphasising to everyone,” White confirmed, “is that we can’t pass any cost increases on. Because of this, inflation in our sector far outstrips CPI or RPI, especially considering electricity and other costs are so dominant in our cost matrix. Despite significant increases to cash-boxes, this will only go some way to recovering lost grounds.”
White acknowledged that the proposed stake hike can be described as an ‘inflationary increase in the price of play’, continuing on to explain that along with other possible changes, he ‘hopes the sector will be in a slightly better position, offering a better mix with greater opportunities to develop the player base’.
One change for the future that could further this effect is a relaxation of technical standards. While Bacta is currently focusing all its efforts on more immediate issues, White highlighted technical standards as one queued for the Gambling Commission in the future.
“There are no changes proposed to B3 or B4 machines in the current set of technical standards, however down the line we may be able to do something with them,” White said. “We think everyone within the Commission is currently preoccupied with the triennial review of stakes and prizes and FOBTs at them moment.”
Indeed, the debate around B2 stakes has dwarfed all other conversations surrounding the review, with a vast array of interest groups weighing in on the discussion. Cutting through the noise, White laid out the ‘headline’ fact.
“The only figure that anyone needs to know,” White stated, “is that more half of all AGCs have disappeared in the past decade, according to Gambling Commission statistics. Low and behold, that is coincidental with the rise of FOBTs. All we want is the opportunity to compete on the high street with other leisure premises. Hopefully the review will address this historical wrong, which is a clear anomaly of the gaming act. We’ve suffered as a result and why should we? Why is our business any less important than the bookmakers business?”