While the FOBT stake reduction will undoubtedly be a major focus during John White’s keynote address at this year’s Bacta Convention, the association’s CEO will situate the controversy within the broader context of social responsibility and suggest there is still more work to be done.
Social responsibility will be a key theme in John White’s keynote address at the 2018 Bacta Convention, which will see the trade association’s CEO call for a closer dialogue with the Gambling Commission.
White will highlight that the amusement sector continues to be dominated by family-run businesses, and this factor has helped forge the industry’s attitude to social responsibility.
“We are family businesses. Even Gauselmann and Novomatic are family businesses, big ones I grant you, but family businesses nonetheless,” White explains.
“We kept the gaming element of our industry deliberately small and the stakes and prizes low. That is why we were so successful when the 1960s legislation grandfathered gaming machines into a legal framework that served us, and the country, well. As a result our reputation was benign.”
Nevertheless, he reflects that this reputation has been damaged in the fallout from the public backlash against FOBTs.
“What FOBTs have done has dragged the reputation of our industry through the mud. The UK population understandably doesn’t make the distinction between the machines we have to offer and the high stakes hard gaming of an FOBT on the high street,” he continues.
Despite the progress the amusements sector has made,White emphasises that there is still more work for the industry to do on the social responsibility front.
“We do have to do more. I know the order of magnitude is massively different but we have a proud tradition of caring for our customers. Augmenting that can be no bad thing. Using our best resource to do so, our people, has to be the best way to achieve concrete results.
“We have joined the Bingo Association in trialling machine messaging on B3s, and thanks must go to Miles Baron and the Bingo Association for driving this project.”
White will emphasise that evaluation remains a “weaknesses that as a sector we need to address”, after it was identified as“sub-optimal” following a recent Responsible Gambling Strategy Board assessment.
“Part of the reason for this is it is hard to know what it means, particularly for smaller companies. I doubt many will have read the evaluation protocol,” he acknowledges.
“But we do have to find a way to embed the concept in every business’s SR agenda. It gives us intelligence to see what works and what doesn’t work. Sharing that can help our whole industry.
“It doesn’t have to be hard. A regular review with staff to assess their impact is better than nothing. In fact is a lot better than nothing. Writing it down and reviewing it again is evaluation.”
White also addressed the Gambling Commission’s recent discussion paper on Children,Young People and Gambling with regards its position on Cat D machines.
“The paper acknowledges there is no evidence to link problem gambling with Cat Ds and then says ‘yet’,” he points out.
“This doesn’t feel like evidence-based policy making which we all agree is the best way of getting things right.It is not the proper application of the precautionary principle to suggest that because one simply feels something is wrong that it should be prohibited.”
Moving on, White welcomes efforts by the GC’s new CEO Neil McArthur to establish a closer dialogue with the amusements sector.
At the same time,he clarifies that the trade body needs to be “more strategic” in its relationship with the Commission.
“What we need to do is set out our agenda for innovation and change and at the same time, set out and discuss with the Commission ideas about just what it is that we can do to improve player protection,” White argues.
“If this later element is central to the discussion at the outset I really do hope that we can move to the next [Triennial] Review with some expectation that our creative energies can be unleashed …on new games and new products.
“The relationship with the Commission will always be asymmetric, they regulate us after all, but it doesn’t mean we can’t work together,” he concludes.