We must be allowed to innovate, urges Bacta president Greg Wood

Greg Wood Bacta AGM
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Like presidents before him, Bacta’s Greg Wood believes a focus on player safety is the heart of the industry’s continued long term success, but he is also determined that innovation – the brain of the industry – should be given more freedom in the upcoming gambling review.

 

Bacta’s gambling review request for a two-stage approach for machine development will unlock previously stifled innovation in the industry, according to Bacta president Greg Wood speaking at Thursday’s AGM.

While Wood also emphasised the need to keep player safety as the number one priority and commitment of the industry, he also expressed the need for a balance between market freedom and regulation.

“The ability to move forward, innovate and develop our sector is currently restrained, restricted, and controlled by outdated and blunt legislation. This needs to change,” he explained. “We must have the opportunity to try and develop new ideas in the real world.

“Our position is that we need flexibility, to introduce and enable this innovation. This is where our approach for a two-stage process or regulatory sand boxes for development comes in; setting the legislation up for the future, giving the ability to test new machines in venues, and to review the data and impacts of this in a controlled way. This will allow us to then provide the data that we are always asked for, but so far have been unable to provide on new concepts and technologies.”

Wood noted that this would need to be in conjunction with the reintroduction of a regular review of stakes and prizes, the lack of which has stifled change considerably. Another roadblock for the industry has been the ban on debit card payments directly to machines, which has caused particular problems since the beginning of a pandemic that has accelerated an increasingly cashless society. While solutions to this exist, Wood said that “the payments industry is very fast moving” and “that lifting the prohibition of debit cards directly on machines is critical”.

“It’s a key ask in our gambling review submission,” he said. “This request, like all the others will be viewed by the player protections that can be delivered with it and through it. We have proposals, but technology will need to play a part.”

Additional Bacta gambling review requests include a subdivision of category C for the development of new products; an increase in the automatic entitlement with the alcohol licence from 2 to 4 machines with the removal of the requirement for a notification being required for the Local Authority; and to allow Linked jackpots in all venues. As always, history has shown that it’s less likely that Bacta will receive all the gifts on its gambling review wishlist – no matter how sensible – but the industry’s ability to innovate is a clear priority for president Wood.

 

Wood: Building back better after the successes and setbacks of 2021

 

Bacta president Greg Wood outlined the successes and setbacks of the last couple of years in his speech at this week’s Bacta AGM, concluding that the industry is now building back better.

The trade association has helped guide the industry through the complications of multiple lockdowns while engaging with the government on all levels with regards to the industry’s wants and needs, Wood added. However, not all these were secured, he acknowledged, with setbacks coming in the form of “not achieving 5 percent VAT for seaside hospitality”, “AGCs not opening with the wider retail segment” and “a lack of formal support for the supply chain from government”. The industry can’t forget about the past two years, Wood said, but it must focus on the future.

“Learning and using these experiences to help us move forward, and to borrow a phrase from Boris, we need to build back better,” he urged. “With most of us looking forward at how we can rebuild, reinvent, and continue to offer the best to our customers, the building back better has already started. It is amazing to see the levels of investment that have already been made post reopening.”

He spoke of significant investments across all the divisions, with members improvements visible across the country, both in the high street and at the coast.

“We are already delivering on a key government objective of levelling up, providing additional jobs and economic activity where post pandemic other retails have been unwilling or unable to invest,” he concluded. “It shows the commitment we have to the industry and the optimism there is for the future.”

“A NEW FRONT”: BACTA TO RAMP UP ENGAGEMENT WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES

At a time when councils are increasingly calling for more control over local gambling policy, Bacta president Greg Wood has said Bacta will be stepping up its communications with local authorities.

As part of his speech to this year’s trade association AGM, Wood addressed the issue briefly but conclusively, calling the increased engagement of local authorities a “new front”.

“Stepping up local authority engagement is a new front, working with our partners we have been planning out a route to better engage and update licensing, planning and political teams at the local level,” he said. “We will continue with our engagement at a national level, while stepping up and bring a wider administrative and political audience up to date with our members and their services.”


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