Two weeks ago, the highlight for Bacta was relief that business is back in action, but then along came Omicron. The uncertainty surrounding the new variant is taking its toll on members, but Bacta are hopeful that EAG will keep the industry focused on opportunities ahead. But for John White, the key focus going forward is the Gambling Review and the replacement of “anachronistic and ill thought-through legislation.”
JOHN WHITE CHIEF EXECUTIVE BACTA
Coinslot: A year that opened in lockdown, staggered through to reopening, via a supply chain crisis and ending with Omicron: how will you look back on 2021?
John White: To use a football analogy, 2021 was very much a game of two halves.
Having endured the pain of a second lockdown and all the intense lobbying that involved, which also let’s not forget was the time Bacta had to prepare its submission to the Gambling Review, the Spring brought some much welcome sunshine as venues reopened and in time saw trading get back to something approaching normal in most venues.
The hospitality side of the business has probably been the last to see business rebuild and uncertainty over Omicron is not helping consumer confidence for any of Bacta’s members.
But I have to say from where I was in March 2020 fearing for the very future of many good businesses in the sector, the fact that we are here at all having to deal with the challenges of today gives me optimism for the future and pride in what we did achieve.
Coinslot: We’ve had five months since re-opening, what were your highlights of the year?
John White: Two highlights really, the first is the way in which consumers got out and spent their disposable cash during the Summer to enjoy themselves after the misery of lockdown. The release was palpable and of course the spend very welcome for businesses that had seen their balance sheets erode to almost nothing during lockdown.
The second highlight was ACOS. The industry got together for really the first time since May. The atmosphere of the Show and the personal interactions breathed new life into the sector which I am confident will flow through to EAG in January.
Coinslot: What are you looking or hoping for in 2022 and what’s on your New Year’s wish list?
John White: There is one key objective for 2022, getting the Gambling Review progressed to the point where we are confident it will happen and that it will deliver the undoubtedly necessary, and safe, changes to regulation that allow the industry to unleash its creative talents and innovate in ways that delight the customer.
We have been held back by anachronistic and ill thought through legislation for too long and we must put the industry on a new footing for the future.