Overall machine growth continues but Cat C remains in decline

Overall machine growth continues but Cat C remains in decline

Friday, June 8, 2018 Posted by Joseph Streeter
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The news comes after the recent statistical update from the UKGC

The overall picture of health for the UK gambling market, as presented by the Gambling Commission in its recently published bi-annual statistical round-up, is looking surprisingly good given the challenging nature of the business. But one sector of the business, at least, appears to remain in a state of decline - that of Category C gaming machines.

The Cat C genre is, according to UKGC, the only machine segment not to have shown any growth. In its executive summary of findings, the regulator said: “The overall number of gaming machines across the industry has continued on an upward trend to 183,928. Machine gross gaming yield (GGY) has also increased in all sectors except bingo and FECs, and in most machine categories except for Category C. Betting shops continue to generate the highest machines GGY at £1.8bn. Across all sectors, Category B2 machines have generated £1.8bn, representing the highest category for GGY.” 

Tellingly, there are no hard and fast numbers contained within the Commission’s statistics relating to the size of the Cat C market. But at the last count it was estimated by audit firm CLMS that in the past decade alone, takes have fallen by circa £600m with average weekly income decreasing by 25 per cent.   

Where the Cat C manufacturing and operating business goes next in search for an upturn in fortunes is difficult to gauge, other than pursuing the traditional route of an increase in stake and prize levels. But with that seemingly closed for the foreseeable future following a dismal triennial review, options are thin. 

One possible answer could be cashless payment, but this again is in the hands of policy makers, with the UK Treasury recently consulting extensively on the topic. The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) had the subject nailed in its response, saying: “...the BBPA has reminded the Treasury in its response to the consultation that cash-based entertainment options ranging from betting machines to snooker tables form an important part of a pub’s offer. Should the Government continue to legislate around digital payments, the BBPA would encourage them to look at accepting digital payments for entertainment options like these.”  

Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds commented further: “A shift towards digital payments across the world of commerce is clearly taking place. Whilst this can be good for busy pubs where payments at the bar are much faster for customers, Government intervention towards such innovation needs to be well thought through. If not, cash-based businesses such as pubs could be unfairly burdened. In due course, it would be good to see an increase in the maximum limit for contactless payments from £30 to £50.”

Totally Gaming says: The Cat C gaming machine - formerly known as the AWP - was once regarded as the backbone of the gaming sector in the UK. Not so now. A combination of pub closures, crippling legislation and, quite frankly, better competing products from the bookies and on mobile have eroded its market dominance to the point where it may never fully recover. Solutions like cashless payments would clearly be welcomed by the industry, but the question remains; are they just another sticking plaster when what’s really needed is a Gigli saw?

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