Bacta to take message of outrage over B2 delay to Treasury

Bacta to take message of outrage over B2 delay to Treasury

Thursday, July 19, 2018 Posted by Michael Lawson
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The association is also aiming to reduce Machine Games Duty.

UK trade association Bacta is preparing to bare its teeth at what is shaping up to be a tense meeting with officials from HM Treasury on Wednesday next week.

A senior delegation of figures comprising national president Gabi Stergides, vice president James Miller and chief executive John White, will meet to convey the industry’s “outrage” over the proposed delay in implementing the £2 stake on FOBTs.

The association will also use the meeting to outline its case for reducing Machine Games Duty (MGD) on skill with prize (SWP) machines from 20 per cent to five per cent.  

Previewing the Bacta position, White said: “The government has taken the decision to reduce the maximum stake (on FOBTs) to £2. It’s taken the credit for making that reduction so why is it taking two years to implement?” He continued: “The bookies are pushing the quite ludicrous argument that it will take two years to make the technological adjustments necessary to reduce the stake when everyone who is involved in the FOBT supply chain knows that’s abject nonsense.

"We also know that the bookies have been scenario planning for a variety of outcomes and it’s inconceivable that the £2 stake has come as a shock when the weight of opinion from the Church of England to The Royal Society for Public Health has been in favour of such a reduction. Bearing in mind the examples of human tragedy caused by FOBTs, this delay is both reprehensible and totally avoidable."

Bacta’s position is in direct contrast to that of the bookmakers who have argued that a reasonable implementation date is required on a number of fronts. Key among them is reprogramming and re-engineering the games themselves. But more important is the need for breathing space to mitigate for the inevitable slew of shop closures and job losses that the stake cut will force.

The association will also use the meeting to outline its case for reducing machine games duty (MGD) on skill with prize (SWP) machines from 20 per cent to five per cent. The cut is needed, it believes, to prevent the genre disappearing completely from British pubs.

White explained: “A reduction in the rate of MGD has long been an ambition of Bacta. SWPs or quiz machines were part of the culture of many pubs and they are now close to disappearing entirely. The cost to the Treasury of such a change is negligible and could be facilitated by a simple amendment to the Finance Act. We are hopeful of a sympathetic hearing based on the facts."

Totally Gaming says: Much of the focus on who is behind the two-year stake implementation has been on the bookies. But don’t rule out the hand of the Treasury in this. It has enjoyed a sustained period of big revenues from B2 machines and it, too, will need weaning off the so-called ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling. It will be interesting, also, to see exactly what Bacta can gain from next week’s meeting given that the government is currently consumed with Brexit and heading for its summer recess. If nothing else, it will have an opportunity to convey the street gaming sector’s true strength of feeling over FOBTs directly to the heart of government. And if that falls on deaf ears there’s always the chance of tea and sympathy over SWPs!   

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