This is the sort of uplift that can be realised by proactively driving this income stream rather than treating Amusement With Prizes (AWP) machines as the unloved “box in the corner”.
Here are some tips for licensees who are determined to establish the good old fruity as a significant profit stream:
- Location, Location, Location
AWP machines should be positioned to ensure that the players feel comfortable, with easy access, while being in sight of the bar. Forcing machines into tight areas, where other non-playing customers gather, will have a detrimental effect on your income.
- Quality of support
Deal with a reputable supplier. These will provide the correct level of investment to support new equipment purchases and service standards. In most cases, if you are a tenant of a pub company, they will have a service agreement with a number of suppliers already in place. Find out what you contracted service levels are and ensure you receive them.
- Invest in the best
As AWP machines get played by a small number of players, (around 4% of the customers in your pub), it is essential to get the best models into your business. As a guide the newer machines will cost more but will attract more interest from your machine players as they will not have seen as many in other venues. A gauge on how much you should be paying is that the supplier costs should be around 25-30% of the weekly cashbox takings of the machine.
- Keep it fresh
Change the machines on a regular basis. As your players get bored of machines your income will drop. The standard change rate should be roughly 13 - 16 weeks, but this should be driven by income levels. Some machines may need to be changed more regularly and some can remain on site for much longer.
- Know your players
Knowing your machine players is as vital in making them feel welcome on your establishment. The more comfortable they feel the more often they will visit. Always make sure that you congratulate them on their wins as well as commiserating with their losses! Licensees might ask themselves – does the machine player spending £50 or £100 per month get the same attention as the equivalent food or drink customer?
- Monitor continually
Where possible connect to your machines remotely to ensure full understanding of when your machines are most heavily used, and be automatically alerted to any issues, such as down time, hopper filler needs and also security issues.
- Empower staff
The modern licensee is extremely busy, with 101 things to do all of the time. There may be an opportunity to give a senior member of staff responsibility to manage your machines, rather than it being another thing to add to your own daily responsibilities. Task them with this check list above, and challenge them to get to know playing customers and to ultimately drive your machine income. They will enjoy the responsibility and hopefully respond to the opportunity.
There are also a few AWP machines basics, which in the demanding and intense pub environment, can sometimes be overlooked. These basics seem obvious but what is less well understood is the impact these simple dos and don’ts can have on your machine income, if overlooked:
Types of machine on licensed premises
- Category C gaming machines with a maximum stake of £1 and a maximum prize of £70
- Category D gaming machines, which can have different maximum stakes and prizes depending on the type of machine. The most prevalent in pubs are those where the maximum stake is 10p and the cash prize is £5.
Switch it on
In a recent survey of 600 pubs, 14% of machines were switched off during opening hours. The most common reasons given were;
a) I want to save power so I will switch it on when we get busy.
b) There’s no one in that wants to play the machine or
c) The machine players will switch it on when they come in.
Tackling these issues head on, in order: a) a standard AWP uses as much power as a standard light bulb; b) You don’t know who would want to play a machine and they definitely won’t if it is switched off; and c) This is unlikely – they will more likely believe the machine is faulty and walk away.
Refill the hopper
If the hopper drops below a certain level then the note accepter will be disabled to ensure the machine can pay out any winnings. As 85% of all cash taken by AWP machines is in notes, removing this ability will hit your income.
Not refilling has the same effect as telling customers they can only buy food and drink with coins. In most cases the effective refilling of hoppers will generate an additional 20% in profitability.
Keep it working
Report any faults as soon as possible. Your supplier will have agreed response times to service calls but service calls need to be placed as soon as possible
Keep it clean
Make it a part of your cleaner’s duties to ensure that the machine is kept in top condition - dirty machines drive players away.
Simon Barff is Commercial Director of Machine Insite, a division of Vianet Group. Visit the Machine Insite website for more detail
Legal Q&A - where should the machines go?
The Gambling Commission has published a Gaming Machine Permit Code of Practice, which imposes two conditions in relation to the location of the machines. They are:
- All gaming machines situated on the premises must be located in a place where their use can be supervised, either by staff whose duties include such supervision (including bar or floor staff) or by other means. Permit holders must have in place arrangements for such provision. Supervision by other means will include the use of CCTV.
- All gaming machines situated on the premises shall be located in a place that requires a customer who wishes to use an ATM at the outlet in question to cease gambling at the gaming machine in order to do so. ATM means a machine on the premises that enables a person using it to obtain cash by use of a credit card or debit card.
Those of you who have been in the trade for some years will remember that, under the previous legislation, there was a requirement to locate the gaming machines within the area of the bar.
This is still good practice advice as the bar will be permanently manned and allow supervision of the machine by the barstaff, for instance, to ensure that under-18s do not play on the gaming machines, and to protect the machines from criminal intentions.
Finally, in terms of location, when you obtained your permission to have gaming machines (either when you notified the licensing authority or you applied for your licensed premises gaming machine permit) you may have had to submit a plan with the application, showing the position of the machines.
It is important to take note of the fact that the licensing authority cannot require you to maintain the machines in the position shown on the plan.
It cannot add conditions to the notification or the licensed premises gaming machine permit.
Legal information provided by Poppleston Allen