Bacta CEO, John White, reflects on the way in which the membership listened on Cat D cash payout fruits – in the process shifting the focus from harm to entertainment and opening up the potential for positive business change.
There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing. It is an adage that I think can be usefully employed to describe the position taken by Bacta and its members at the recent EGM held in London.For those Coinslot readers who may have missed the news or been enjoying a well-earned break, the EGM agreed unanimously to evaluate a change to bacta’s Code of Conduct to inform customers that players on low stake cash payout fruit machines must be aged 16+ or alternatively be accompanied by an adult.
This demonstrated a membership and indeed a trade association in touch not only with public sentiment but with those who play such an important role in determining the health of our sector. For its part Bacta engaged with the Gambling Commission, DCMS, MPs and their advisers. Whilst we were able to correct many of the misperceptions around our industry and our products, it was clear that there were some concerns around the issue of children and their access to Category D cash payout fruit machines. In light of this sentiment it was vitally important that the industry listened to the mood music and didn’t just hear it in the background.
I have been told by more than one influential senior politician that the issue of age access to machines, even those with the most modest payouts, was considered to be the industry’s Achilles heel when it came to lobbying for higher stake and prize levels on Cat C and B3. Politicians have to feel totally secure in lending their support to an issue or argument, particularly when the issue under the spotlight carries the sensitivities associated with our sector, irrespective of how prejudicial those arguments may be.
The view that listening pays dividends was rapidly borne out by the response from Carolyn Harris MP. On hearing the result of the EGM the Labour member for Swansea East and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm went on the record to congratulate the industry on acting to minimise any risks to children stating, “I am pleased to see this is a message that Bacta has heard loud and clear.” She wasn’t the only one to express that view, and she remains, as most MPs do, a supporter of our seaside traditions.
Coming into the EGM I was aware that members had genuine concerns about how an amended Code of Conduct would be policed, its impact on customers and the potential of it becoming the thin end of the wedge. By listening to all of the arguments the EGM was able to learn from the lived experience of fellow Bacta members a number of whom had been employing similar age restrictions on these machines for over a decade without suffering any adverse impact to their businesses.
Bacta always needs to listen intently and with empathy to the issues facing its members and we were determined the new Code would be introduced in the correct way. The meeting agreed to trial the new measures and then to reconvene after the summer in order to discuss the results. We will then take a vote on amending the Code of Conduct at September’s Division 1 meeting and if passed vote on making it a condition of bacta membership at the association AGM in November.
Suggestions that Bacta meetings generate more heat than light were put to the sword by our recent EGM which demonstrated quite how inaccurate that characterisation is. All opinions were listened to respectfully and the issues, most of which centred on practicalities, were debated in a measured manner. I think this demonstrated the Bacta membership at its pragmatic best and reflected positively on a progressive industry whose currency is FUN and which entertains circa 20 million people annually.