Last week Simon Barff, MD at CLMS, gave an early indication of how the public were responding to reopening; and at 82 percent of pre-Covid levels, it was fairly enthusiastic. But what about the medium term? The machine play specialist talks us through some of the key changes we might see over the coming months and how players might change their patterns in the new normal.
Coinslot: What changes will players notice when they return?
Simon Barff: To start with, there will still be the obvious social distancing measures in all sites but everyone seems to have far better understanding of what this now means. I think we have all lived with this for long enough that we know what we need to do to take individual and joint responsibility for our safety.
Machines are all being made available to play, with the exception of pool in Scotland, (yes we find that bizarre as well). Machines will be cleaned on a regular basis and those situated next to each other should not be played at the same time but that doesn’t mean they can’t be switched on and available to play.
Site owners will be taking steps to satisfy us all that they are making all of their offer, whether that be food, drink accommodation or gaming and leisure products, safe and free from risk.
Coinslot: Do you expect a delay in players returning to machines?
Simon Barff: As with the previous re-start in July last year, we are uniquely placed within the industry to be able to see live data from over 12,000 gaming machines in the pub sector and we are already seeing that the players are returning to the machines in line with customers returning to the pubs.
The update is in line with where we were as started in July 20, with around 82 percent of the play levels that we were seeing pre-lockdown.
The positive of this is that we are seeing a higher initial level of the pre-lockdown machines being switched back on, at around 80 percent starting point, and a high number of requests for those machines removed for the initial social distancing guidelines, to be replaced, including the non-gaming offer especially pool and the kiddie play equipment.
This obviously makes for a more rounded and “normal” offer for our customers.
Coinslot: What pattern of recovery are you anticipating and when will we see trends begin to form?
Simon Barff: If the recovery remains in line with the pattern we saw running through August and September last year, which will be the case until we get back to life without social distancing and compulsory table service, then we will see machine income and player interaction steadily increase to a level equal to 90 percent of pre lockdown levels. Obviously, this is a blanket percentage and will differ within the different sectors of the pub retail, AGC and Bingo sectors.
Coinslot: Things to look out for?
Simon Barff: I’m sure that we are all concerned with the prevalence of the Indian variant and the rate that it appears to be spreading.
We all need to take extra steps to ensure we maintain vigilant over the coming weeks if we have any chance of reaching the 21st June in good shape, although at this stage I believe we can expect the further relaxation to be delayed.
We will also need to see how businesses recover without the support they have had during the lockdowns. We all know that without the furlough, bounce back and business support loans and grants many more companies would have disappeared, however there is still a lot of underlying fragility.
We also know that there is a lot of investment interest in the pub retail and AGC sector across the UK, as the prediction for long-term growth across the sector is high.
I would envisage a raft of movement in the next six months in both areas with some new and exciting entrants to the market emerging.