One small step for Bacta, one giant leap for the industry’s social responsibility credentials. That’s how many will be viewing last week’s decision by the trade body to trial new measures on cash payout fruit machines in seaside arcades. In a move that will mean no under-16s will be allowed to play unless accompanied by an adult, the industry is making one of its more proactive moves in the SR arena.
At an EGM held in London last week, the Bacta membership agreed to evaluate a change to its Code of Conduct which would tell customers that players on low stake cash payout fruit machines must be aged 16 or over unless accompanied by an adult.
The move was “unanimously endorsed by a special meeting of Bacta’s seaside operators’ following a consultation process that involved widespread conversations with the Gambling Commission, DCMS, MPs and other stakeholders.
Talking after the EGM, Bacta’s CEO John White was clear that the decision was a vital shift for the industry. “As providers of family entertainment to nearly 20 million people annually, it is important we reflect what our customers want,” he declared. “We have listened carefully to the debate about children and gambling and we want to ensure we do everything we can to augment our existing safeguarding measures.”
In historical context, Bacta has, on occasions in its distant past, been caught out by public opinion trends, but not this time. The association has nailed its colours to the social responsibility mast. Last week’s EGM can be regarded as a significant step forward.
White explained the rationale: “Evidence suggests that any risk of gambling- related harm from seaside arcades is tiny, but we want to go as far as we can to reduce this even further. This initiative does just that and will reassure everyone that our seaside arcades will continue to be safe and enjoyable places for generations of families and friends to spend their leisure time.”
Bacta’s move has received a warm and immediate response from political quarters, albeit how trustworthy those vocalists will be in the long term remains to be seen. After all, politicians are in the midst of their own trust and responsibility issues. But Carolyn Harris, Swansea East MP and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, was certainly earnest in her credit.
“I very much welcome this move by Bacta members,” she added to the association’s official statement. “Everyone loves going to the seaside and spending time in the arcades. They are a vital part of the UK’s economy, culture and heritage. We must make sure, however, that any risks to children are minimised and I am pleased to see this is a message that Bacta has heard loud and clear.”
So, bold move by Bacta and its members; warm response by the politicans and parliamentary committees. All that remains is the detail of the Under-16 code of conduct process and the terms and parameters of the trial.
That will follow shortly, probably at the association’s AGM. In the meantime, the industry will be focusing its attention on how to turn small steps into giant leaps.