Bacta CEO presses for ‘crucial’ FOBT stake reduction

Bacta CEO presses for ‘crucial’ FOBT stake reduction

Friday, May 5, 2017 Posted by James Walker

John White, chief executive of Bacta, has underlined the gaming and amusement trade association’s call for a reduction on the stake of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in UK bookmakers.

“It is crucial that Bacta sees both a substantial reduction on the stake on FOBTs and a positive response to our request for changes to existing stake and prize levels on gaming machines across the board,” White told

“We have significantly upped our political engagement over recent years, and we will continue to promote the many positive aspects to this industry which provides employment, supports coastal communities and quite simply gives the public a great deal of fun.”

White’s comments came following the publication of a large-scale consumer survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on behalf of the London-based association, which represents the interests of low-stake gaming operators, family entertainment centres (FECs) and amusement arcades.

The PwC Consumer and Industry Insights report highlights the ongoing importance of the sector, which supports the employment of 34,000 people and generates £270 million in Machine Games Duty and machine VAT.

According to the research, playing on amusement machines remains a popular leisure activity in the UK, with 72% of adult consumers having played at some point in their life and 36% having played in the last 12 months. Incidence of play is highest in FECs, with 29% of consumers having played in the last 12 months.

Asked to identify which two options from a list of 14 best described their reasons for playing amusements machines, the sample of nearly 5,000 consumers selected ‘the chance to win money’ and ‘just as a bit of fun’ as the top two across all six vertical markets covered by the research.

Amongst the sample of current FEC players, the responses were 17% (‘the chance to win money’) and 67% (‘just as a bit of fun’); the figures for adult gaming centre (AGC) players were 51% and 46% respectively, MSAs (35% and 49%), bingo (55% and 45%), pubs (42% and 58%) and clubs (49% and 51%).

The PwC study indicates the FEC sector has 14 million current players, where play is measured by at least one visit in the previous 12 months when an amusement machine was played. This is followed by pubs, where seven million have played a machine at least once in the past 12 months, clubs (five million), AGCs (four million), and bingo and MSAs (three million each).

“Throughout the research findings, the provision of bigger and better prizes was consistently identified as a motivating factor to encourage play, as is having a greater range of games, including the further introduction of digital machines,” Batca said.

“For the segment of lapsed players researched by PwC, particularly those in pubs and FECs, the less appealing nature of the machine playing experience is highlighted as a reason for no longer playing.”

Underlining its request for changes to existing stake and prize levels on so-called Amusement With Prizes (AWP) machines in the context of the research, Bacta said: “Many industry observers believe there is a direct relationship between prize levels and the perceived attractiveness and desirability of the machine playing experience.

“Higher stake and prize levels free up games designers to add layers to a game, enhance features and generally make the product more inviting. Currently the industry’s games creators are working with the handbrake on.

“For as long as the same restrictions don’t apply to every gaming operator on the high street, the low stake sector will undoubtedly continue to suffer from unfair competition and a consequent migration of players.”

In line with other modern retailers on the high street, there are a lot of initiatives that the low-stakes gaming industry has been applying to the business, but, according to White, the foundation of any commercial organisation is the ability to remain competitive in their core offering.

He said: “Leisure businesses up and down the country have been investing heavily in their offering in order to enhance the customer experience. Unlike non-gaming retailers, operators do not have the same flexibility to alter the offering, which is why it is so important to have a regular review of stakes and prizes.

“The triennial review should provide the opportunity to take stock of the industry set against an empirical analysis of player numbers, demographic shifts and advances in technology.

“In a fast moving, competitive sector such as leisure, it’s very difficult for operators to have to play catch-up, which is why bodies of research such as that carried out by PwC are so valuable and why the triennial is so fundamental to the health and future of [the] industry.”

Totally Gaming says: According to White, the PwC findings lie at the very core of what defines the UK’s low-stake gaming and amusement industry. “The origins and the ethos of the industry is about delivering value for money entertainment within a socially responsible framework,” he said. The research underlines the ongoing importance of the UK’s amusement machine offering, and Bacta remains steadfast in its call for the government to address what it considers to be an uneven playing field.


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