Bacta AGM: Extract of James Miller’s presidential speech

James Miller Bacta AGM Speech extract
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Coinslot offers an extract of James Miller’s first presidential speech at this year’s Bacta AGM.

 

From time to time some people in the industry have asked me in a somewhat flippant and sceptical tone ‘what good does bacta do? I would ponder for a moment then answer, What do you think bacta is? Its not some fairy godmother who lives in the stars with a magic wand. It’s made up of people like you and me and many others, its all the people who contribute and make a difference because they are passionate about their business and this industry.

And they want to ensure it continues to survive and flourish in increasingly difficult and challenging circumstances. So you should be glad they do because without them we’d all be in sorry state, then you’d really have something to moan about.

So I would say to anyone don’t just stand there complaining, if you are interested in the future security and survival of your business, come and get involved. Then you’ll see for yourself that we’re all in this together.

Listen and learn from some of the best and most experienced in the business, I know I did. Form your opinions and find your voice and you’ll see that you can make a difference and what we can all achieve and the results we can get.

And that’s not just social and political achievements like the hard fought campaign to reduce the stakes on Fobt’s, but also the charitable ones too with all the great work of the BCT and the wonderful people who’ve raised Hundreds and Hundreds of thousands of pounds for very worthy causes.

Then one day, when someone asks you, what does Bacta do, you’ll be in a better place to let them know.

I took up the role as president in March this year following James Miller: “The amount of effort and investment that Bacta Members have to put in to their business today is staggering, you only have to visit some of our members premises around the country to see this for yourself.” on from Gabino after he had served his term with enthusiasm and dedication and I have to say it was a pleasure to work with him as his vice and I think we made a good team together. He was indispensable on the Cat D initiative and worked incredibly hard to help deliver that.

There were many phone conversations, some late into the night, my god he could go on. But he did so with the utmost integrity and I learnt so much from him, so I would formally like to thank him greatly for all his time and effort as Bacta president and I know I can rely on him for advice going forward.

I’m also very pleased to have Greg Wood as my Vice president, he has been involved in many areas of Bacta, especially chairing the SR committee and been the driving force in the Cashless payments group.

And he now rightly serves as a director at Game Payment Technology. The joint venture set up with Polar moment to help deliver a secure and reliable cashless payment option for the industry.

And where would any of us be without John White, John is like having an older Bacta brother, he helps to keep us all in check and on task, and like most older brothers sometimes he can be testing, but in truth your always glad he’s there.

He’s given years of service to Bacta and always acts in the industry’s best interest and we’d be lost without him. So thank you John.

I would also like to thank Jason Frost for coming out of retirement recently and standing in for me, when he and John gave evidence to the House of Lords committee into the social and economic impact of Gambling. The feedback of which was incredibly positive. I’m told it was the best evidence session they had heard so far, but then it was Jason who told me that.

Now we’re all here today for the same reason, because we’re Taking the business of Fun seriously.

Over the summer John and I have attended many meetings and events and had countless conversations with a vast array of individuals inc MP’s and councillors from all parties, members of the House of lords, senior officials at the DCMS and the Gambling Commission. and to all our message has been clear.

Social responsibility is at the heart of everything we do, its in our DNA, it has to be. the very survival of our business depends on it. We are not run by an algorithm in the cloud, we are not driven by share price or obscene directors bonuses.

Instead our focus is on sustainability, we want to ensure we are there for the next generation to run the business and for those families who return year after year, generation after generation to enjoy the value for money entertainment we to continue to offer.

This can only be achieved with continual re investment, in many cases we are having to invest to stand still.

The amount of effort and investment that Bacta Members have to put in to their business today is staggering, you only have to visit some of our members premises around the country to see this for yourself.

All this effort is helping to keep alive the very towns they are in, creating jobs and contributing to their local economy but never really recognised for it. And without all this effort those towns would be very different places indeed.

This is borne out by the report presented earlier by Graham and Harsha from the Centre of Economics and Business Research. Which sets out with clarity the economic contribution we provide.

And why we launched the ‘Siding with the seaside’ campaign which John highlighted earlier which has received a great level of engagement and support across all platforms.

Indeed it has been so well received, Interel have been nominated for yet another award for a bacta event.

On Social Responsibility we are here to work with all stake holders to raise standards, indeed as John mentioned earlier, the on screen messaging initiative with the Bingo association is a prime example.

So I say to the Gambling Commission, our door is open come and talk with us, but don’t talk at as. Engage with us, lets work together and help you deliver your aims and reduce gambling harms in a practical way.

We should be proud of our ongoing commitment to Social Responsibility. We’ve ‘listened’ and worked with our members and partners and acted by introducing additional measures across all machine categories.

The Cat D initiative, which is to be adopted into our charter later today, initially started following Neil MacArthur’s comments he made here on this platform last year.

And other concerns raised by Carloyn Harris MP and Helen Rhodes, who as the Head of safer gambling at Gambling Commission said;

“Arcade operators can take particular care to ensure that the products available to children and young people are offered responsibly”.

Ours was a prime example of engagement and action. We listened to the concerns and came up with a practical solution that works for all.

An EGM of Division1 members was held in June and members were fully briefed on the proposal and I am pleased to say they adopted it whole-heartedly.

This policy for Cat D reel based fruit machines that pay out cash only, has been widely received by all stake holders including the gambling commission and DCMS as a positive measure and I would like to thank all those involved including, Trevor Sutton, Peter Davis and Joseph Cullis.

On Cat C, we are helping the pub industry with further measures on age verification messaging and action points.

On Cat B3 were introducing, enhanced messaging, limit setting and breaks in play.

In addition we have consistently high rates of success on age verification in AGC’s. and we continue to invest in well trained staff who are able to act in a preventative way and deliver the human touch as opposed to passive retrospective measures like the algorithms as used in other sectors.

We also have a new chair for the SR committee in Elizabeth Speed from Luxury Leisure, who I am pleased to announce will be supported for the first time by Amanda Kiernan from Praesepe as vice chair. Both of whom I believe will maintain the committee’s focus going forward.

Also in regard to the new payment app ‘YALP’ that Bacta has developed with our Partners at Polar moment, player protection was a main focus from day 1 and we invested heavily in ensuring we had the correct advice from Harris Hagan.

These measures along with all the others John set out earlier demonstrate we are here to work with all parties and reiterate our continual commitment to Social responsibility.

I don’t believe The Gambling Commission has been great on Social Responsibility, for a public body they failed consumers on B2 stake reduction for years and they are failing them again now re online.

Which if not dealt with soon will make the magnitude of the B2 mistake, look like a mere warm up act compared to the problems in the ‘Wild West’ that online is creating.

I urge The Commission to accept the findings of the APPG on reducing gambling harm and act on them.

They can make a difference to thousands of lives by following its recommendations. If that isn’t Social Responsibility then I don’t know what is.

Finally after years of hard campaigning the max stake on Fobts was reduced from £100 to £2, it was clear for all to see the damage these machines, dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ were causing to thousands of people across the country.

This product should never been allowed on the high street in the first place and rendered the whole gambling industry ‘Toxic’. But it was the power of the bookies that dragged it out for as long as poss, with one aim, the protection of their profits.

I’ve attended the APPG evidence sessions, I’ve seen and heard for myself the problems people are experiencing and I have to say some of the things I’ve heard are staggering.

I also heard comments from the online executives, they appear to have learnt nothing from the mistakes around Fobt’s. They said they were not in the Wild West anymore. Yet as they left I couldn’t help but hear the distinct rattle of spurs.

Don’t be fooled by the facade of algorithms and other smoke screens, you’ve heard that all before with Fobts. If they are serious about protecting their players, they could act now and significantly reduce gambling related harm by voluntarily implementing a ban on the use of credit cards, which so many people are calling for.

So what’s stopping them? I think we all know the answer to that, as they’ve got previous. Its FOBT ground Hog day all over again.


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