How the Government could 'revitalise' gaming machine sector for pubs

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Call for overhaul: how the Government could help pubs 'revitalise' gaming machines
Call for overhaul: how the Government could help pubs 'revitalise' gaming machines

Related tags Red tape Slot machine Government

Industry bodies have called on the Government to look at a number of key aspects that could "revitalise the gaming machine sector" for pubs, including raising the stakes and prizes and slashing red tape and fees for venues.

As part of the Government's consultation titled 'Proposals for changes to gaming machines and social responsibility measures', which has now closed, both the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) made numerous recommendations.

The ALMR suggested an upward review of stakes and prizes for Category C machines, an increase in the automatic entitlement from two to four machines and "slashing red tape and fees" for venues. It also recommended investigating the use of contactless payment for machines to promote social responsibility and to review technical standards to allow for modernisation of sector.

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Gaming machines have historically been vital revenue streams for pubs, but their impact is dwindling due to a combination of factors.

"Red tape and costs prevent venues from utilising machines fully and customers have increasingly been lured away by other forms of gaming. If gaming machines are to regain their usefulness and revive their financial contribution, the Government must act to give businesses a chance make the most of them."

Much-needed revamp

Nicholls said there was "certainly justification" for a much-needed revamp of gaming machines in pubs from a social perspective as well as economic.

"Unlike other potential areas of harm, the NatCen Social Research’s study for the Gambling Commission’s report on gambling behaviour shows that gaming in pubs has no history of contributing to problem gambling," she continued.

“A simple first step from the Government would be to increase the automatic entitlement for venues and cut red tape from the process of acquiring additional machines, benefiting both licensees and local authorities. Venues are only entitled to two machines but must pay £50 to take up that entitlement, plus an additional £50 fee every time the licence changes. Those costs are unjustified.

“The Government can also take steps to make machines more attractive to players without risking harm. An increase in the maximum stake and prize to £2 and £150 respectively would help boost play while addressing the fact that machine income has not kept pace with increased costs for businesses."

Socially responsible

In response to the consultation the BBPA also called for the Government to allow a "modest rise in stakes and prizes for pub machines". 

“The amusement machine offer in pubs needs to be able to develop to meet the expectations of the consumer and form part of a low-stake, low-prize entertainment offer in a pub. Our proposals to increase both stake and prize should help keep pub amusement machines competitive," said Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive.

“Any gaming machine use in pubs is overseen by the licensee/manager and their team, and pubs represent, much as they do for drinking, a socially responsible environment. The BBPA already has a long-established code of practice to ensure machines are operated responsibly.

“Operating costs for pubs are under pressure from high beer duty, business rates, the apprenticeship levy, and mandatory auto-enrolment pensions for employees. Income from amusement machines can be vitally important in keeping many pubs viable, and an increase in prize for Category C machines will enable pubs to invest in the business and keep an important social resource viable.”

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