Councils floundering to get grants right, says Holland

Reece Holland Bridlington
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Bridlington industry figure Reece Holland says that government has done a “marvellous” job of supporting British business, but when it comes to supporting amusements – it’s local authorities who are letting the side down.


As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to shutter businesses up and down the country, one prominent seaside amusement operator is arguing that local councils are finding themselves increasingly out of their depth when it comes to making the right judgement calls on grant dispensations.

No stranger to interfacing with his own local authority, arcade operator and head of Bridlington Leisure Association Reece Holland told Coinslot that councils across the country were “well understaffed and unequipped to understand the specifics of all industries,” and said that these deficiencies were made all the more clear when it came to the treatment of leisure-based businesses.

“The leisure sector which has been severely hit, much harder than most other sectors,” he remarked. “It’s also probably one of the least understood on the part of legislators, as there is so many different aspects to it: ranging from nightclubs and pubs to single site funfairs, festivals, AGCs and FECs.”

Still, Holland maintains that central government has done a “marvellous job” overall in issuing and distributing business grants – taking issue with Westminster only on the issue of its rateable value cut-off.

“I think the only mistake they made was amusement arcades with a rateable value of over 51,000 never received a penny,” he argued. “That’s clearly unfair seeing as though they are the ones who pay the higher taxes and higher VAT.

It’s here that Holland sees a key role for the trade association: “I’d like to see Bacta fighting for a review and to try to get grants backdated,” he urged.

Nevertheless, Holland’s trading forecast for the seaside is bullish in the medium to long-term future.

“I think the British seaside will have the biggest boom we’ve seen since the 1980s,” he told us. “I think the typical British family will realise how much fun they can have on their own shores for a fraction of the cost of going to Europe. The staycation has essentially been forced upon holidaymakers by other countries closing borders and making hard work of getting out the UK – so it’s obvious there’ll be a corresponding uptick in business.”

Meanwhile, for Holland, the review of the Gambling Act also raises the prospect for industry heads to press for some much-needed modernisation.

“I would like to see higher increases on stakes and prizes for category D and category C machines, including coin pushers,” he said. “We should be pushing pounds in the slots in 2020 not 2ps – we have been pushing them for 50 years!”

“Also, we need the government to allow us to put credit card readers on machines so we’re in line with every other industry in the world today,” he continued. “We need to make the government understand that FEC and AGC are the softest form of gambling in the market place with some of the highest restrictions put in place.”



Coinslot: Your family has been in the industry for a long time. What are the challenges facing your generation?

Reece Holland: My family has been in the ‘leisure’ industry for more than eight generations. The challenges change by generation and we have to change with it. Each of us will do a minor variation to what our predecessors have done, but we remain committed to our core values.

But looking forward, there will be a time when gaming is not part of our distant future; it will be a thing of the past for shops and amusement arcades. It will be all internet based and on mobile phones – like the majority of the world which is all heading online.

But the leisure industry will remain a big part of the UK economy because people want to be entertained so it will change from gaming to something else. I don’t know what that will be – if I did I would be a millionaire!

Coinslot: Looking to the now, what about innovation – what products are getting people excited?

Reece Holland: All the mainstream products which are heavily advertised on TV are always good products in amusement arcades because they have good point of sale. Frozen, minions, Cadburys etc, they’re all familiar and popular.

In machines I would like to say virtual reality is the future. However I’m not 100 percent certain; games or entertainment people can play at home don’t always make for the best money makers in our industry. We need to offer them something they can’t do at home and that’s always been a challenge, but it’s one the industry in general has done well at.

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