White’s Week – Look back on Convention

19/12/2017

This will be the final White’s Week of 2017.  I hope all members have a very merry, successful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

IMPORTANT NOTICE – members may have seen over the weekend reports about the bookmakers’ self-exclusion scheme being tested by a BBC journalist – and falling down badly.  All members are urged to ensure their policies and procedures are bang up to date, staff training is refreshed and extra vigilance is applied to your own self-exclusion system. 

The last issue of WW focused on the Government’s Consultation Document on machine stakes and prizes and social responsibility issues.  I developed my thoughts in my Conference speech which you can read on the bacta website.  Despite an initial negative reaction, we have had a chance to meet with Government officials and talk more widely about what is a significant publication for our sector as well as the wider gambling industry.  From that I think we can draw some positives.

Firstly, the document explicitly states something that has been implied before, namely that enhanced player protection measures are a precondition of future stake and prize increases.  Bacta has already been working on a number of these and under our new Head of Social Responsibility and Compliance, Simon Bradbury, we will bring a number of new initiatives forward during 2018.  Members are encouraged to engage with the process and indeed trial new initiatives themselves.

Secondly, the document also invited us to do more work on the Entertainment with Prizes concept, the B5 machine.  Player protection will be a key element of the ultimate proposal, but the idea of a soft, long play time gaming product was one that has a future.

Thirdly, we have some work to do, but the lack of understanding of the Category D product, has led to a perverse outcome for Category D non-complex products like cranes, pushers and redemption.  Having had a chance to explain further the business reality of this product, and indeed the absence of any serious concern about it as a game of chance, I feel we can successfully pursue development of this genre of product.

Fourthly, and crucially, the maximum permitted stake on FOBTs will be reduced.  We are currently in the depths of preparing our response to the Consultation Document which will major on the case for a reduction to £2.  A draft response will be considered by a special National Council on 10th January 2018.  Having been buried in all the responses to the call for evidence I remain personally convinced that this is the only policy response that is warranted.  Yet campaigning by bookmakers will continue and we will need all bacta members to make one last push to contact their MPs, write a response to the consultation and indeed get staff to write to their MPs.  I will write to you again in the New Year separately on this issue once National Council has had a chance to agree our draft response.

On other matters, bacta has been actively engaging with the Tourism Alliance on the Tourism Sector Strategy.  It is hoped ultimately in partnership with local authorities and with Government we can access additional funds and reliefs for tourism businesses such as seaside arcades.

Tourism Alliance Chair, Dierdre Wells OBE, gave an excellent speech at what many members have described as the best bacta Convention ever.  For those of you who couldn’t make it the slide deck and speeches are on the bacta website.  We covered not only FOBTs with Carolyn Harris MP, but payment systems, the future of the arcade and virtual reality, the future of the gambling industry and much more.  We also concluded the event with a This is Your Life farewell to Phil Silver, who retired on the day of the Convention.

Division 2 members in particular will be pleased to hear of our active engagement with PPL and PRS.  Of particular concern has been the charges made for copying music and the widespread, and illegal, use of streaming services such as Spotify to supply music in pubs and bars.  We will be going back to PPL to further these discussions following an exchange of letters, but I will be writing to Division 2 members shortly to gauge the impact of services such as Spotify.  Please do respond as without evidence it is hard to make a case.  On the dubbing tariff I am pleased to be able to report that following our meeting PPL agreed to suspend their proposed 4% uplift in fees.

In the New Year bacta will be implementing some changes to the Self-Exclusion scheme.  Having received feedback from members we are initiating a programme of development work that should improve the operation of the system.  Following discussions with the Gambling Commission, we will also be introducing a new set of T&Cs which will incorporate a request to self-excluders to permit themselves to be contacted for research purposes during the self-exclusion period.

Finally, looking to EAG, we will again have a strong presence at bacta’s very own trade show.  I hope members will come and see us in the bacta lounge and attend the seminars that are being provided.  One, on Thursday morning, will be a chance to ask the bacta team a question about anything bacta is, or is not doing, on your behalf.

I am also pleased to be able to report that the first ever bacta dinner at the EAG has sold out.  We intend to repeat and grow the event in coming years and if you are disappointed you haven’t been able get a ticket this year, please do contact Parveen Sharma (parveen@bacta.org.uk) to reserve a place for the following year.

Best wishes.

John White

Chief Executive

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