If ever there was a declaration of intent from the industry, it was delivered by the land-based amusements and gaming sector: social responsibility sits at the very heart of its operational activities. In a radical move away from decades of playing on ‘fruit machines’, Bacta members have decided to raise the age limit for players to 18.
Bacta Division 1 members have voluntarily raised the age limit for players to play Category D cash fruit machines found in seaside arcades and family entertainment centres to 18.
The resolution was raised at an EGM yesterday to change the Bacta Code to require members to prevent under 18s playing on these machines. Following this agreement, it will go to the online Annual General Meeting/Convention on November 26 to be ratified before coming into effect on March 1, 2021.
“Our members are all about providing fun and entertainment to the whole family as part of their annual holiday or day trip to the seaside,” explained Bacta President James Miller. “We take social responsibility extremely seriously and although Category D Cash Payout fruit machines operate at very low stake and prize limits which are predominately played by adults for fun and nostalgia, we wanted to do our utmost and limit any potential risks to gambling harm no matter how small, by following a precautionary approach and restrict all Under 18s from playing them in our venues,” he added. “This approach will send a clear message of reassurance to all our customers that family seaside amusement arcades have and will continue to be safe environments for friends and families to have fun.”
The move for change was proposed by Bacta’s FEC and seaside arcade operators, whose divisional chairman Trevor Sutton was keen to maintain momentum on the sector’s SR commitments. “The members’ decision to strengthen our Voluntary Code and restrict Under 18s from playing Cat D cash fruit machines is further evidence that Social Responsibility is at the core of what we do,” he confirmed after the vote. “These games will remain available to play by adults within our venues and importantly still allow family groups to play in close proximity to each other without segregation. As operators, we intend to ensure that our offer remains safe, well controlled, diverse, appealing to all ages and most importantly represents a fun, wholesome experience creating memories that last a lifetime.”
The broader perspective was also very much in play for Bacta, which has been one of the key architects of the new vision on SR throughout the industry. “Category D fruit machines have been long considered as part of the entertainment offer associated with seaside holidays and a trip to the arcade. Regulators in the past have therefore not imposed an age restriction on them,” John White, CEO, noted. “However, our members understand that perceptions change and we want to ensure that we do everything possible to protect players. I am incredibly proud that our members have taken this responsible decision at a time when their businesses are suffering due to the Covid pandemic and the subsequent loss of trade.”
And suffering would be an understatement; according to the latest survey by Bacta, the coastal sector has lost nearly three quarters of its year on year profits from lockdown alone. All the more reason, says Bacta and its membership, that government takes a serious look at the growing calls for a reduction in MGD.