From President of Bacta to President of EUROMAT, Jason Frost continues to mark out his credentials as both a listener and a leader. Following on from the battle over B2s his focus is now firmly on protecting and growing the redemption market across the Continent of Europe.
Can you start by explaining the legal situation in France regarding the operation of redemption equipment and what EUROMAT has and is doing about it?
Redemption machines are allowed to be operated in France but only in travelling funfairs, in ‘not for profit’ clubs or by the lotteries, the two latter exemptions do not operate any kind of redemption so in effect, the only real place it can be operated is in travelling Fun Fairs. France’s Macron Government is keen to find ways to reduce regulation in order to boost the economy and many felt that there was an opportunity to make the case to add an exemption to include FEC’s. The French Operators have been supported by a group of manufacturers comprising: Sega, Bandai Namco, Elaut, Bulldog Games, Adrenaline Amusements, Andamiro, ICE, Raw Thrills, Bay Tek and Electrocoin. Thanks to those combined efforts there is now a bill under discussion which, if supported, will create a market for FECs in France, which is great news for the industry.
What impact does the situation in France have on the UK market and have domestic based manufacturers contributed to the EUROMAT campaign?
Any new market in Europe for redemption is good for the UK. Indeed UK manufacturers have been involved and there has been a lot of excitement about the possibilities that a new market presents not only for the manufacturers but also for distributors. There’s significant leisure spend in the French economy and there is absolutely no reason why FECs should not contribute to and be a part of the leisure economy in the future. There is also a knock-on or ancillary industry such as prizes and tickets to take into account.
What is EUROMAT doing in order to help position redemption as Family Fun?
Over the last couple of years we’ve seen a lot of authorities in different member states scrutinising redemption machines based on concerns, often fuelled by the media, that they are a form of soft gambling. This is basically a huge misunderstanding of the product based on ignorance. To help combat this, EUROMAT is working on the production of a Code of Conduct for operators which we think will help to assuage the concerns that regulators sometimes have. We are also supporting a research project in Italy. There is currently no evidence or body of work that looks in-depth at this issue. Having that available will be incredibly helpful in changing the sometimes confused perception of redemption machines which in turn impacts on how they should be treated under the law.
Is the mis-perception of redemption as gambling a Europe-wide problem or is it simply restricted to France?
Concerns have been raised in several countries in recent years. The Netherlands, Italy and only recently the local government in Madrid has decided to bring in tighter controls with serious economic implications for operators in the city. In those cases where restrictions were or are intended to be imposed – Italy and Spain – there seems to have been very little evidence to support the decision. In the Netherlands they did look at the evidence and concluded it wasn’t enough to take action. Obviously, where authorities are looking at changes they should and need to be evidence based.
Up until recently, France did not have a trade association responsible for the amusements industry: do your colleagues in EUROMAT look to Bacta and the UK with a degree of envy?
I think the coin-operated amusements industry is sometimes under-represented in Europe. In the past EUROMAT has not given it enough attention but I hope that has changed in the last couple of years. For me the BACTA experience was helpful in this respect as the industry is well represented in the UK. Also coming from a showman background, I grew up in the amusements business so it is pretty close to my heart.
How has Jason Frost used the experience gained during what is regarded as being a successful two year stint as Bacta National President at EUROMAT?
There are similarities and also differences between being President of BACTA and President of EUROMAT. The skills that you need to be effective in both roles are largely transferable: you need to be a good communicator and a good listener and you need to be able to identify with the members. I think the big difference between the two roles is that in EUROMAT you’ve got to represent not only operators and manufacturers of different sizes but also different national cultures. This is also a fun part of the job because you really see our industry from a different perspective. Also the EUROMAT brand is really powerful in some countries, particularly where the industry is new and is looking to learn from more mature and better developed markets.
What and where are the big challenges facing EUROMAT over the next 12-months?
Anti-money laundering is coming back on the agenda in Brussels. Online gambling is also an issue which is going to be important. Across Europe the growth of online has resulted in a huge gulf in player protection between online and offline channels. Something has to be done about that. Finally alternative payment remains a priority. I have been invited to address the Gambling Regulators European Forum on this subject in May so that’s a good opportunity to make the case for a sensible approach which will allow us to remain relevant to players.