Bacta: Caught up in the toxic B2 backwash

Trade bodies from the amusements industry and the pub sector expressed their disappointment with the Triennial Review consultation document, which Bacta and BALPPA believe shows an industry tainted by “the negative nature of FOBTs”.


Bacta, BALPPA and the BBPA have voiced their disappointment with the lack of stake and prize changes for the amusements industry in the Triennial Review consultation document.

John White, CEO of Bacta, explained that many within the association felt the document’s tone was set by the harm B2s have caused, and that he himself was “very angry” that seaside amusements were treated as if they are a proportionate product.

“The feedback I have received from our members is that it has all been about FOBTs, and other sectors of the industry have just been caught up in the toxic backwash,” he said. “It’s not right, I’m actually personally very angry that the government has pulled Cat D – even 2p pushers and cranes – into the discussion of social responsibility, which is suggesting there’s some kind of equivalence between Cat D products and FOBTs, which there clearly isn’t. There is an expectation of higher protections on Cat D machines, but I cannot fathom – I literally cannot fathom – what is in someone’s mind when they think about protection on a 2p pusher, but that’s why I say we’ve been caught up in the backwash.”

Echoing this sentiment, CEO of BALPPA Paul Kelly explained his association’s reaction. “We are very disappointed at the lack of consideration that has been given to the minor increases that we requested for Category D machines,” he said. “These machines and the operators that use them have been major contributors to their communities for many years. We had hoped that consideration would have been given to those coastal operators who have endured a difficult time in the last few years. It would appear that focus of the review is the negative nature of FOBTs and not the positive nature of the family centred fun that our members provide on a daily basis.”

More discontent came from the DCMS’ dismissal of Cat C stakes and prizes, which White said could have gained a new and much needed lease of life with a £2 maximum stake.

The BBPA’s Brigid Simmonds was equally disheartened.“ It is disappointing that the DCMS is not proposing an increase in either stakes or prizes for pub machines, as we had proposed,” she stated. “As today’s report does recognise our evidence on the important role that machines play in pubs, this should be backed up with modest increases in stake and prize levels. Proportionate increases would keep machines as low-stake entertainment, whilst remaining attractive for pub-goers, so that they can continue to provide this valuable income stream for pubs. We will certainly be making this point in response to this latest consultation.”

The latest consultation however, while still accepting submissions regarding other machine categories, is expected to be mainly focused on the four options for the B2 maximum stake.

“Reflecting on the tone of the document, the government is going to be very reluctant to give anything to the gambling industry in the current climate surrounding B2s,” White concluded. “When that dust has been settled, and B2s have been dealt with, we might be able to have a much more grown up conversation with the DCMS, which would of course still include the subject of player protection and social responsibility.”

Indeed, despite very little on offer for the amusements industry, the campaign against FOBTs is pleased that at last the process is underway to cut the maximum stake to £2, restoring economic parity to the high-street, but most importantly preventing the long-running harm caused by B2s.

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