Outgoing Bacta president Gabi Stergides thanked members for their efforts during the FOBT stake reduction campaign, but reminded the industry to stay on-guard as a new threat to the industry emerges – and it’s one that could be fatal.
“Undoubtedly, the biggest threat to our industry at the moment is the idea of player tracking,” warned Gabi Stergides in his last speech as president to the Bacta AGM hall.
“The idea that anyone wanting to use a machine should be forced to first register doesn’t sit right with us or our players.”
Indeed, in the recent politically-charged Triennial Review, there was a clear push towards the implementation of player tracking for B3s, largely from the Gambling Commission. However, Stergides sees “several fundamental problems” with the idea.
“The first,” he explained,“is that it wouldn’t actually do any- thing to help the people it’s meant to protect, it would simply generate and collect large volumes of data.
“Secondly,it would drive customers away,between 6 and 42 percent of players would stop playing, and that’s according to the Gambling Commission’s own research.
“And third,” continued Stergides, “the cost of implementing this change would be crippling. It’s estimated at over £150m for an industry with a GGY of less than £400m for those machines – we heard today it is £202m for B3s.”
The outgoing Bacta president added that unlike other parts of the wider gambling industry, amusements machines aren’t and often can’t be upgraded frequently. As such, implementing player tracking would mean uprooting the foundations of the sector.
“It’s no exaggeration to say player tracking would kill our industry with the stroke of a pen, not harm it, but kill it,” he stated.
Following a Brexit theme that continued throughout his speech, Stergides made it clear that for Bacta, player tracking is a red line. However, he also reminded the Bacta AGM assembly that the industry is currently operating in a difficult political climate, and urged members to stay alert to unfair attacks levied against their machines.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be caught on the back foot,or for our sector painted as something it isn’t,” Stergides asserted. “We know from our extensive consumer research that people associate our sector and our machines as fun before anything else.”
And this is where player tracking in itself becomes a contradiction; almost half of players agree it will ruin their gaming experience enough to stop playing, and it is likely that a great number more would future experiences negatively affected. Indeed, rather than player tracking helping consumers, it effectively bans them from playing unless they surrender their privacy.With such an influential prospect currently in the balance, Stergides left the Bacta AGM with a message of positivity and persistence.
“Make no mistake, we have won battles this year, but it is as important as ever that we continue fighting for our industry and its future,” he concluded.