Pub profits from fruit machines ‘in long-term decline’

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Call for stakes to change: income from pub fruit machines falls by an estimated £600m
Call for stakes to change: income from pub fruit machines falls by an estimated £600m

Related tags: Gambling

Takings from fruit machines has fallen by an estimated £600m over the past decade, with average weekly income decreasing 25% since 2007, an auditing company has revealed.

The figures come from CLMS, a firm that conducts audits for pub companies on the performance of gaming machines known in the trade as ‘amusement with prize’ machines (AWPs).

CLMS owner Colm Taylor said that the long-term decline in AWPs profitability is down to more competition from fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in betting shops, which offer higher value prizes than pub AWPs.

Legislation allows licensed betting offices to have FOBTs, which offer players maximum jackpots of £500. FOBTs allow gamblers to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic casino-style games, whereas AWPs have a maximum stake of just £1 and a jackpot of £100.

This disparity in prize value means fewer people are using AWPs in pubs, Taylor said.

Raise the stakes

John White, chief executive of Bacta, the trade association that represents the low-stake gaming sector has called for a maximum stake of £2 and a maximum prize of £150 to help fight falling AWP income.

According to White, this would help boost profits by around 6%.

"The scale of decline in pub machine income demonstrated by these figures provides yet another powerful endorsement for our case that the stake and prize levels for pub machines must increase.”

Lure of the FOBT

According to Taylor, Britain was manufacturing 50,000 pub machines a year about 30 years ago – now that figure is fewer than 10,000.

Peter Davies, managing director of Gamestec Playnation Group, the UK’s biggest machine-operating company agrees that betting offices are attracting pub players by the “lure” of the FOBT jackpot offering.

He warned that wet-led locals and food-led pubs with a bar area that are close to a bookmakers are “most at risk."

Reduce the FOBT stakes

Davies said: “A reduction in stake on FOBTs is critical to minimise the social harm of high-stake gaming available on the high street.

“This should also have the positive impact of keeping players in pubs playing low-stake, low-prize machines and in the process contributing to pubs as vitally important, community assets."

Taylor has called on the next Government to address the findings in its triennial review of stakes and prizes, which will take place after the general election next Thursday (8 June).

The data was based on findings from 60% of the UK's managed pubs.

In response a spokesman for Association of British Bookmakers said: “Unlike pubs, bookies specifically cater for people wanting to gamble. They don’t serve alcohol and have trained staff in responsible gambling measures.

"Gamestec clearly have their own vested interests in arguing against FOBTs but they should be wary of making arguments that will only blur the lines between what services can be legally provided in different licensed venues.

"The reality is that today people can walk into a pub and gamble as much as they want on their mobile phone while drinking alcohol. Betting shops are an important and vibrant community asset that have been trading for over 55 years and help to increase footfall on the high street.”

Related topics: Entertainment

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