On a visiting tour of bacta’s northern regional headquarters, CEO John White reflects on the week following the Triennial Review consultation document, revealing discussions from last week’s emergency National Council meeting and looking forward to the final decision.
Following a meeting with the National Council and discussions with members, bacta CEO John White has said that “£2 is now the frontrunner” for the decision on B2 maximum stakes.
While the trade body will continue to consult with the DCMS on behalf of the amusements sector, White explained that the government department – despite taking a nervous approach to the review – has listened to bacta’s case.
“Reflecting further on the document, what is quite interesting is that the arguments employed by government are consistent with the arguments that we have been been making,” he said.
“The presentations, the lobbying, the submissions and the conversations have cut through, and that is good to see. However, these things are never over until they’re over, and we will be constructing a comprehensive response to the consultation document.”
This response will also cover the fact that the amusements sector’s requests were largely sidelined, however in the current “toxic climate” surrounding B2s, White acknowledges this may be a dialogue to continue after FOBT maximum stakes are resolved.
“Looking at the positive side, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that any requests for change were ‘at this time’, so the conversation is not closed by any means on our objectives,” he explained.
“The key policy objective of our sector has to be parity with bookmakers at a maximum stake level of £2. That was confirmed at the National Council last week and that is our position, and the document is clearly signalling that it is a very strong contender for the ultimate decision.”
With concerns echoing about the lobbying power of the bookmakers, White concluded with reassurance that the DCMS will hear both sides of the ABB’s “weak” economic argument.
“They will lobby, but we know their position and arguments – and they are very weak,” he stated.
“I think everybody’s seen through them, to be honest, but the one they will want to make the most of is the economic argument. They have an impact assessment, but I’m not persuaded that it is a fully accurate economic assessment of the impact, and we will be communicating that to the government. Whilst a stake cut will have an initial impact, that money is discretionary spend and will be spent somewhere else, and therefore that tax revenue will still be there for government.
“Employment taxes will also be shifted as we are at relatively full employment, so those will continue to flow. Looking at it on a holistic economic basis, it’s likely there will actually be a very small impact from cutting stakes to £2, and when set against the benefits for people who have a problem or are at risk of spending money on FOBTs, this impact actually ends up at a net benefit.”