Bacta has been working hard to ensure that its members were able to make the most of July 4th and, despite the weather and tiny pockets of authority resistance, things went fairly well for those operators able to re-open after 100-plus days in limbo. things went fairly well for those operators able to re-open after 100-plus days in limbo. Bacta’s chief executive John White reports back on what he’s heard
Coinslot: Independence day finally happened over the weekend which would have come as a great relief to most sectors of the industry. What kind of feedback have you had from Bacta members?
John White: Having spoken to a number of operators over the weekend, it seems that trade has been patchy, but on the whole it seems the AGCs did quite well. At the coast the weather wasn’t good – so some operators were OK with the numbers of customers, others disappointed. It is of course far too early to draw any conclusions about how the next few weeks and months are going to pan out.
CS: There was a lot of preparation required from operators in terms of getting ready for reopening. From various soundings, that thorough preparation, however, was not matched by some of the authorities up and down the country. What reports have you had on the police and local authority response?
JW: The pubs were busy which was good news, but there have still been issues with police and Environmental Health Officers telling publicans that their machines can’t be switched on. Otherwise, it seems on the whole that the authorities have not been troubling members. I did hear in Great Yarmouth that the EHO there was telling the arcades to turn off their air hockeys.
CS: What’s been your response to this?
JW: The reason given was that you can’t operate a pool table in pub. Apart from the fact that you can, the logic escapes me. Of course you can operate an air hockey. An FEC is allowed to open and by definition the machines in the FEC have to be switched on! I would suggest that any member that finds themselves in this situation identifies the air hockey separately in their risk assessment and describes the mitigation measures you decide to put in place. I know members have special cleaning regimes for certain machines and some operators make gloves available to customers for example. If any member does have any problems with over zealous enforcement they need to get in touch with us.
CS: The production of Bacta’s guidance document for re-opening has been a pretty intense process over the past few weeks with the industry’s proposals going back and forth between yourselves and government. All in all, are you pleased with how this has finally turned out?
JW: I’d like to commend members for following Bacta’s sector guidance, which has now been approved by Government. It was a great effort by everyone involved and a lot of work has gone into getting venues ready for re-opening. But, it did concern me however to hear that there were some venues that were reportedly less than thorough in following the guidance. We’ve contacted every member and urged them to review and reassess the measures they are taking. We all appreciate that getting the balance right is a judgement, but if anyone is not following the guidance then there is a danger that the local authority could take enforcement action and require the premises to shut. There is also a wider risk that the industry will be seen as not following through on the undertakings we have made, which is not helpful when we want to persuade government to make changes to the Gambling Act or similar in the future.