Scotland will release AGCs from lockdown on May 17, in line with their English counterparts. But questions still remain, and not just north of the border; down south siting Cat D machines on forecourts has become a subject of keen interest.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled the country’s latest reopening plan and it’s a five week wait for the arcade sector. Following the timings of the English government, AGCs and bingo clubs in Scotland will now be able to open on May 17.
It’s been a frustrating journey to this final reopening date for the industry, and there are still certain points to clarify, including opening times for some operations.
In the latest unlocking process announced on Tuesday, Sturgeon outlined a set of curfews on hospitality venues which will undoubtedly raise concerns for those preparing to reopen further down the line in five weeks time. The notable restriction on timings were for pubs which can open until 8pm indoors, but without alcohol, and 10pm outdoors where alcohol is allowed to be consumed.
No clear mention, as yet, on music, machines and pool in pubs, although the concerns are – until May 17 at least – possibly none could be permissable.
As has become customary in Covid Scotland, fear rarely falls far from reality. But, whilst many stakeholders have yet to scour the detail of Scottish policy, confidence is high for music’s presence following clarification last year – a government reversal on that will not go down well. But interim advice is not as hopeful for gaming machines, and pool has met with a deafening silence.
As expected, the trade bodies are ‘seeking clarification’ from the Scottish Government.
Forecourt is forearmed: Industry wrestles with machine rules in England
Can FECs place Category D machines outside on the forecourt or pavement at their venue?
It’s a question that’s circulating the FEC sector which has been assessing machine play options in the reopening guidelines.
And the answer is yes, and no – and maybe.
A despatch issued to Bacta members last week tackled the question. It read: “If the demesne of your FEC includes some curtilage or part of the forecourt or pavement in front of the arcade, then that is covered by your licence and you can put Cat Ds there.”
So, all good here then for the operator. But there is a caveat, an important one at that. Bacta warned: “However, under Covid 19 Regs arcades have to be shut – which therefore covers the curtilage. So you can’t put anything out at all.”
As is standard in the government’s complicated roadmap to reopening, Bacta has decided to advise the pragmatic option – talk to the authorities. “Given this is outside, the transmission risk of Covid 19 is significantly reduced. Coupled with a proper cleaning regime and social distancing based upon a risk assessment the risk is lowered further. Therefore we have suggested that a conversation be held with the Local Authority for permission to place some socially distanced machines outside. If they are happy it is highly unlikely that any action will be taken. It is best to get that permission in writing.”