As Bacta National President James Miller enters the final weeks of his term in office, he marked his New Year’s message to the industry with a tribute to his trade association colleagues, a call for unity and grasping the opportunity to make change to the country’s gambling legislation. In what will hopefully a year of revival, Miller honoured the industry’s endeavours for survival.
“I would like to wish you a Happy New Year although I realise that there appears to be very little to be happy about as we return to lockdown and our businesses remain closed. I wish we were facing the new year full of anticipation as we did before the pandemic when plans could made in confidence instead of having to change or cancel them every five minutes.
Right now, we would be preparing for a trip to Excel for the EAG show, looking forward to meeting our friends and colleagues at Excel. I sincerely hope nobody has to visit Excel under the current circumstances.
We have endured so much over the last 12 months as an industry and as individuals and I know – from my own experience – how hard this has been. It is the uncertainty that makes it so difficult to be stoical about the situation. If there was a sure end in sight, it would make life so much easier.
However, as we face a new year, we must strive to find some positivity. In the old days, when people were suffering; they were told to ‘count their blessings’. This is very hard to do but I have done my best to round up those things that we can be grateful for in 2021.
We have a vaccine programme. This is a huge development and although it may be a while before we all receive a dose of it, the time will come when it will gain traction and allow us greater freedoms, lift restrictions and help us all to get open and trading again.
We have a Brexit agreement. Right up until Christmas Eve, this looked as though it might not actually happen. While it may not be to everyone’s liking -it gives us a way to move forward. Finally, four and a half years after we vote to leave, we have actually left the EU without crashing out. As a result, the stock market has rebounded and initial reports from ports and borders seem positive.
We have a Gambling Review to look forward to. This is the biggest opportunity for us to effect real positive change to the legislation that governs our sector since 2005. We must make the most of it, by agreeing on our asks and presenting a united front to regulators.
It is difficult to remain positive at such a time but sticking together makes us stronger and makes us feel less alone. Being a member of a trade association is more important than ever when times are tough. As the end of my presidency of bacta draws nearer, I can reflect on these months – trying to juggle work, family and bacta duties under the most difficult of circumstances. I hope that members will agree that I have endeavoured to consider all their interests and listen to their concerns. I hope that they will understand that I have spoken out on their behalf – even if sometimes politicians and others didn’t want to hear what I had to say. It’s been an honour to represent you all but at such a time it’s been challenging.
Politicians use the word ‘unprecedented’ a lot to describe recent events and it’s true – in our lifetimes we have never seen such an imposition on our personal freedoms or been instructed to close our businesses with little or no notice. Rules have varied from one region to another – from one town to another or been interpreted in different ways.
As a result, John and I have spoken with politicians and local authority officials from all over the country, we have made new contacts among the devolved administrations. We emerge from this stronger for it as an association. Despite our relatively small size, we have a loud voice. An example of this is when we managed to speak with UK Trade and Investment regarding the 25 percent import tariff on amusement machines, alongside other stakeholders. This was thankfully subsequently removed.
All this hard work can only help to give us a good springboard as an industry to bounce back in 2021 and beyond.