The three-month consultation period now in progress in the UK to decide upon fresh levels of stakes in fixed-odds betting terminals in bookmakers’ shops will certainly result in a substantial cut-back, says Nick Harding, chief executive at leading adult gaming centres company Praesepe.
“Our company standpoint is that the maximum stake should be reduced to £2 and that is the view we will submit in the process of collecting the opinions of interested parties,” he said.
The stance taken by Praesepe, which is part of the Gauselmann Group and the operator of 181 locations across the UK, is mirrored by many other high-street operators that have seen the impact on their own businesses from the availability of the aggressive and high-stakes machines in close proximity with the rest of the industry.
“Common sense dictates that £2 will offer a level playing field to everyone and that will be in our submission. That level is a very low-risk stake. The reality is that in our own adult gaming centres operation the actually average stake on our Category B3 machines is somewhat lower than £2.
“If we can achieve this level playing field then we can all move forward as a united land-based industry, together with the bookmakers, who were, don’t forget at one time members of our trade association, BACTA.”
Last week’s Holiday Parks Innovation show held at Birmingham’s NEC attracted a smattering of industry companies, including Blueprint Machines/GeWeTe, Sound Leisure/SL Kids, Eurocoin and World of Rides. InterGame/InterFun and Holiday Parks Management magazine were also represented.
The show appears to be replacing the Leisure Industry Week event, which lost favour with the coin-op sector as it became increasingly focused on gyms and spas. Another company known to our side of the industry was Espresso Essential, which was typical of a number of vending options featured at the show. There was a wide range of exhibitors, including lodge and structure manufacturers, pool and spa products, numerous booking system providers, and sustainable technologies among others
“We chose the show to exhibit our cashless solution to park owners and we have had some really good enquiries – it has definitely been worthwhile,” said Eurocoin’s Paul Smith.
The Gambling Commission has unveiled a new strategy which it believes will help shape a well-regulated gambling market that works for consumers.
The strategy – which will be of interest to consumers, gambling businesses and others – sets out the regulator’s focus and commitment in five priority areas:
- protecting the interests of consumers – for example, the Commission expects operators to intervene to make play safe and to protect consumers at risk. There will also be tougher and broader sanctions on operators (including lotteries) who fail to treat customers fairly and make gambling safe.
- preventing harm to consumers and the public – for example, the Commission expects consumers to be provided with more information about gambling and its risks, and better controls to manage their gambling.
- raising standards in the gambling market – for example, the Commission expects effective and independent arrangements to resolve consumer complaints and disputes.
- optimising returns to good causes from lotteries – for example, the Commission will regulate in a way that delivers a healthy National Lottery for customers and good causes, and plan for the competition for a new licence to be awarded for 2023.
- improving the way the Commission regulates – for example, the Commission will improve the way it taps into consumer and public issues to inform action; it will help industry comply but take precautionary action where necessary, and will give independent and well evidenced advice to government on gambling and its impact.
The UK’s gross gambling yield increased 161 per cent from £8.36bn in 2008 to £13.44bn last year, according to figures released by the UK Gambling Commission.
It said that a sizable portion of this was due to fixed-odds betting terminals. The machines became widespread in the country after changes to the taxation on gambling in October 2001. There are now more than 34,000 of them. They generated a gross gambling yield of £1.8bn between October 2015 and September 2016. That is about 13 per cent of the GGY of the UK gambling industry as a whole.
These machines came under recent scrutiny by the government, which has considered decreasing the machine’s maximum £100 stake to as little as £2 in an effort to combat problem gambling.
Malcolm George, chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers, said that FOBTs were introduced 15 years ago and the levels of problem gambling in the UK have not risen since that time.
The commission also said online gambling accounts for 33 per cent of all gambling in the UK and that there are 8,788 betting shops in Great Britain, as well as 583 bingo halls, with the entire industry employing 106,678 people.
Sales of new Category C (AWP) machines into the British market up to and including September of this year totaled 15,790, but this figure, we understand, includes “greened” machines – analogue models that were rebuilt.
The figure also includes 5,000 digital machines, mainly supplied by the two manufacturing groups in the UK, Gauselmann and Novomatic.
The data comes at a time when British pubs – the major source of locations for AWPs – are under pressure, with as many as 15 venues closing each week, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. The organisation is calling for a cut of one penny in Beer Duty as the country’s Chancellor finalises his plans for the annual Budget due to be presented on November 22.
A cut in duty, says the association, will help to save pubs from closing. It reports that sales of beer in pubs, bars and restaurants has fallen by the largest margin in five years. The BPA reports that increased business taxation and competition from beer sales in supermarkets to be consumed at home was hitting sales in pubs. Beer Duty was raised last March by 2p a pint – the first rise in five years.
Brigid Simmonds, CEO of the BPA, said: “When the government was cutting or freezing Beer Duty from 2013-15 sales of British beer stabilised after years of decline. Beer has gone up 39 per cent in tax in the past 10 years and that is 14 times higher than in Germany.”
The BPA reports that there are more breweries in the UK now, but the number of pubs is down 17 per cent since 1996. This reflects the trend to drink at home,
Bacta has confirmed the promotion of Simon Bradbury to the newly created post of Head of Social Responsibility and Compliance. ‘Brad’ who joined bacta in 2014 serving as Regional Compliance Officer covering the Midlands, North West, Yorks and Lincs region, will succeed Phil Silver who retires on November 23rd, closing a three decade span working with the association.
Commenting on the new position, John White, Chief Executive at bacta said: “I am delighted to welcome Brad to this new post, the creation of which reflects the central importance that we as an association place on ensuring that social responsibility is the dominant culture within our member organisations. It is also very important that the transition is a seamless one and that we uphold the very high standards that Phil has helped to maintain. In these respects Brad is an ideal appointment for bacta and its members and I look forward to working alongside him in this incredibly important role.”
Brad, who enjoyed a successful career with the Police Force, retiring from the West Midlands Constabulary as an Inspector in 2013, said: “During the last three years I have developed great respect for the work of bacta as an effective and progressive organisation and a close affinity with members in the Midlands, North West, Yorks and Lincs region. My new, expanded role will put me in contact with bacta members throughout the country and I look forward to building the same calibre relationships that will help reflect the industry’s commitment to social responsibility.”
TouchTunes has confirmed that UK sales of its Playdium jukebox have increased by 30% following the launch of ground breaking terms, which include the abolition of fixed music fees and the introduction of deferred payments of just £14.50/week.
Toby Hoyte, TouchTunes’ Sales and Marketing Manager said: “These are fantastic terms for what is the very best jukebox in the U.K. Income on the Playdium is way above the national average. We appreciate the huge pressures faced by UK operators and have worked hard to create an appropriate business model. Replacing fixed music fees with a simple 18% of the cashbox, reflects the faith that we have in the Playdium and its ability to deliver a modern in-venue music experience for consumers and generate the best income for our customers. The only payment that operators make is based solely on the income of the jukebox and after three years the Playdium is fully paid for. It’s the most transparent deal in the industry.”
Developed by TouchTunes and Sound Leisure to be an in-venue centrepiece, Playdium is widely regarded as a next generation digital jukebox. With 30,000 tracks on the juke and online access to 1 million hits and back catalogue. The Playdium learns from the music selected and adapts over time to highlight the choices that are most relevant, thereby encouraging play and maximising the cash box, which is close to 25% above the national jukebox average.
Yesterday the Government announced it will definitely cut the stake of FOBTs from £100. However, the industry will have to wait a further three months before we know whether the new stake will be as high as £50 or as low as £2. There will be no review of stakes and prizes for games other than prize bingo – a result which was not unexpected.
“It was not a great surprise to me that the Government announced a consultation period before deciding the final stake for FOBTs – but there is a huge difference between £2 and £50, so we will have to see what happens after 12 weeks,” said Simon Barff, Managing Director of Blueprint Machines. “As for the Triennial Review – again I am not surprised that there is no increase of stakes and prizes outside of prize bingo – there were many indications that this would be the case. Experience has shown that changes to stakes and prizes often leads to a period of uncertainty which can be bad for business in any case. Blueprint Machines will continue on our path – which has proven to be a very successful one for us.”
The 12-week consultation period was dismissed as a“missed opportunity by Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson on Radio 4 yesterday. He said that Labour would have cut the stake to £2.
The Association of British Bookmakers welcomed the further consultation period and claimed that a cut to £2 would cost the industry 20,000 jobs. However, it is widely accepted that a £50 stake would make negligible difference to the bookies’ bottom line.
Bacta’s Chief Executive John White said, “We will provide a more detailed analysis of the consultation document in the next few days. National Council are meeting tomorrow to discuss the announcement and if you wish to express your views please contact a member of National Council.”
The consultation document can be read in full here https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-to-take-action-on-fixed-odds-betting-terminals
The UK’s Rank Group achieved two per cent growth in like-for-like revenue for the 16 weeks to October, 15, the company revealed at its AGM. Rank logo The group comprises of Grosvenor Casinos, Mecca Bingo, new community-based gaming brand Luda and similar Spanish operation Enracha. On a channel basis, venues revenue fell by one per cent and digital revenue grew by 19 per cent. Grosvenor Casinos’ like-for-like revenue was down one per cent in the period, driven by a lower than average win margin. Like-for-like revenue at Mecca fell two per cent. Both Grosvenor Casinos’ and Mecca’s digital channels grew strongly in the period, however, with revenue up 34 per cent and 11 per cent respectively. Management’s expectations for the full year remain unchanged. Group revenue came in at £755.1m while operating profit was £83.5m.
Astra Games, part of NOVOMATIC UK, has signed a new distribution agreement with German-based casino equipment distributor E-Systems GmbH for the provision of Ainsworth Gaming Technology products in several European markets. The deal reaffirms the long-standing partnership between E-Systems and Ainsworth UK following the restructuring of the Ainsworth business in Europe.
Under the newly extended agreement, E-Systems, formerly known as D-Systems, will continue to provide Ainsworth products into Germany, Austria, Poland and Luxemburg, as well as to several European customers. The Ainsworth product suite includes a range of slot machines such as the A640®, A600® and A600® ST, as well as a wide selection of games and jackpot solutions.
Phil Burke, Director of UK Casino & Export for Astra Games and Ainsworth UK, said: “We are pleased to sign this new agreement for E-Systems to continue delivering Ainsworth products into key markets in Europe. This partnership has been successful over the past years and we look forward to gaining more market share as the Ainsworth product portfolio develops for the European markets.”
Emilia Tomachinska, General Manager E-Systems, added: “I’m excited to continue the distribution of Ainsworth gaming machines. We’ve been a distributor of the Ainsworth brand for 12 years, we rolled out the first Ainsworth slots in the German-speaking market and we were able to grow the market share constantly each year. We are convinced that the new generation of Ainsworth gaming machines will be a great addition to all our customers’ product portfolios and that we can build on the success of the past.”