Oft criticised for being out of touch with life on the shop-floor of British amusements, the Gambling Commission has risen to the challenge and experienced it first hand. New chief Neil McArthur spent a day with Weston’s Grand Pier to see how operations really work.
Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur rolled up his sleeves to learn first-hand how family entertainment centres run their businesses.
As part of a new regulator initiative aimed at giving its staff a greater insight into the day-today workings of operators McArthur visited Weston-super- Mare to join the team at the Grand Pier.
During his day at the Grand Pier McArthur refilled change machines, gave out prizes in the shop, and shadowed workers on the shop floor.
He said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the visit and the opportunity to accompany staff as they went about their work.
“I was struck by just how much effort was put into looking after customers fairly, and how staff would go the extra mile to make sure people were having a good time.
“It was really obvious that the people there were having fun – a real reminder that, whilst we must keep working to make gambling fairer and safer, for most people gambling is just a way of spending their leisure time.
“This initiative is a chance for colleagues to gain different insights into all sectors of the gambling industry and use that knowledge to inform the work we do.”
McArthur’s trip to Weston-super-Mare was organised with the support of amusement machines trade body Bacta and Grand Pier Ltd.
John White, chief executive of Bacta, said: “We were very pleased when Neil accepted our invitation to spend time in a Bacta member’s venue. It’s clear from Neil’s feedback that the visit gave him a first-hand insight into the lengths our members go to provide a safe and entertaining experience to the generations of families that regularly visit piers and family entertainment centres throughout the UK.
“I strongly believe that a better understanding of the sector will lead to better regulation and it’s my hope that even more Commission officials will take the opportunity to see first-hand what running an amusement business entails and the value our customers derive from what we do. My thanks go to Michelle Michael and the staff on the Grand Pier at Weston for hosting Neil.’’
Michelle Michael, director at Grand Pier Limited, said: “When we were asked to host the Gambling Commission we immediately welcomed the idea. To have the opportunity to show the behind the scenes workings of our operation in our busiest time of the year to the chief executive was unprecedented and we believe insightful into the effort that goes into any busy family entertainment centre environment.”
Given the success of the visit the Commission intends to develop this initiative to give more colleagues who don’t work in specialist areas of the business the opportunity to get a different perspective on the challenges faced and to build even deeper levels of understanding between the Commission and those it regulates.
LIFE ON THE OTHER SIDE
In one simple move, the Gambling Commission has done more to turn the dial of discord back than anything attempted in the last few years.
The recent day visit to Weston’s Grand Pier by chief executive Neil McArthur showed a much needed human side to the regulator. None of the preachy stuff, just first hand experiencing of how tough life actually is on the operational side of amusements entertainment.
Coinslot has literally battered the Commission over the years, and will obviously continue to do so, but on this occasion the regulator deserves praise. You can only know how your words and decisions impact on people’s lives when you understand what those people do and experience in their day to day activities.
For the industry, this is the side of the story no-one ever tries to understand.
Neil McArthur has made the first step, and hopefully not the last.
Weston is as good as any to deliver the industry’s message of community engagement, social responsibility, employment and economic opportunities, customer service and entertainment.
There will be no epiphany or revelation from one visit. But then that was never on the industry’s wish list. What it wants, what it really, really wants, is a better understanding and a more balanced perspective of what the industry does.
One swallow does not a summer make, but given our relationship with the Gambling Commission during the past 5 years, Neil McArthur’s day trip to Weston feels like a welcome whiff of global warming. That’s a measure of how far apart the two sides have become; and that’s a gap that needs to start closing. There will be a rocky road ahead – more hugely uncomfortable dialogues between the regulator and the industry – but the more we know and understand each other, the higher the hopes for better regulation.
This is one tiny step forward – but a much better atmosphere to try focusing on avoiding two steps back.