The amusements and coin-op trade association wants its stake holders to be included with the lion’s share of other retail-facing businesses in benefiting from the government’s decision to slash business rates.
Fresh off the back of the prime minister’s announcement of a 50 per cent cut to business rates paid by most British retailers, Bacta has confirmed that it is actively striving for AGCs and FECs to be included on the list of high-street bodies eligible for the new tax break.
The cut to the unpopular rates system – described by the Bacta CEO as “a broken system” – was declared by Boris Johnson as part of an extended list of other policy pledges unveiled during the Queen’s Speech when the 93-year old head-of-state opened the new Tory-controlled parliament on December 19.
Pubs, hairdressers, restaurants, and the vast majority of other independent retailers with a rateable value less than £51,000 are all set to gain from the tax-cut: which builds upon an earlier government pledge to reduce high-street rates by a third.
Nevertheless, despite their own presence on the high-street, adult gaming and family entertainment centres have been notably absent from the list of qualifying businesses – a situation which Bacta’s chief executive John White and his team are now working to amend.
“We’re already actively engaged with the Department for Communities and Local Government on this issue,” he told Coinslot last week. “The case needs to be made for arcades to benefit from the new retail discount in addition to the small premises discount – which only currently applies below a 15k threshold.”
And the local authorities angle is key here: for as it stands, it’s the regional councillors that hold the decision making cards as to any extension of rate-relief to other high-street entities.
“The lists of eligible businesses are not exhaustive and local authorities do have the discretion to allow (or not) the discount in cases where a type of shop, like an AGC or FEC applies for it,” White explained. “However, I am unaware of a single case where an amusement business has ever been approved for a retail discount.”
Were gaming and amusement centres brought into the fold of national legislation declaring their eligibility for rate relief, then arcade stakeholders would join the 90 per cent of other retail-facing businesses to benefit from the sizeable cost-saving.
Still, as pub trade association CEO Emma McClarkin argued, any potential step-down in business rates serves merely as a welcome halfway house towards the complete scrapping of the system altogether.
“Reducing rates for pubs is an important step in the right direction,” said the BBPA chief. “[But] such reliefs are vital until the fundamentally unfair system is completely overhauled.”