John White, CEO of Bacta laments the loss of common courtesy particularly in contentious debates such as those concerning Brexit and the gambling sector.
No-one could have failed to notice politics is currently either tremendously exciting or jawdropingly embarrassing, depending on your perspective.
Bacta spends a lot of its life engaging with our politicians and there has not been a time in my professional life when the atmosphere within parliament has been more febrile, more divisive and, for issues outside of Brexit, more lacking momentum. Perhaps the expenses scandal had a similar feeling but that was comparatively short-lived compared with the Brexit debate which is now believe it our not, into its fourth year since the referendum result.
There is also no doubt that the atmosphere within Parliament has spread to the country as a whole. Disputes and discussions seem more tetchy, more animated and more unpleasant. Winning an argument by any means seems more important than winning through forensic logic and the use of evidence. We can see this in the current debate about gambling. Public discourse about how we as a society should regulate a legitimate business activity that for most is just a bit of fun has descended into a debate about good versus evil. Right versus wrong. If you are not with us you are against us.
This is not helpful. Gambling is an activity enjoyed by many. Like alcohol. And like alcohol some people can cause themselves harm by indulging to excess. Why this happens when for most it doesn’t is a complex question with a complex answer. In the absence of certainties the best we can do as a society is try to develop public policy that strikes a balance between the enjoyment of the many against the risk of harm to the few. We have done pretty well in this country in doing that. However, post FOBTs the debate, which needs to remain alive as technology develops and views shift, it seems impossible to get any cut through with reason and courteous disagreement. I have personally been trolled on Twitter simply because I am CEO of an organisation that has amongst its members operators of Cat Ds at the seaside – theoretically available to under 18s. If we are to arrive at a public policy that gets the balance right and gives us the best chance of genuinely helping people who are harmed by gambling, we have to work together and learn to accept we don’t have all the answers.
It is to be hoped that the current inquiry in the House of Lords into gambling will restore some much needed reason into the current debate. Bacta has made a substantial submission which can be viewed on the Bacta website. We will also be appearing before the Committee in November – depending what happens with Brexit and the expected election.
Whether you voted remain or leave; whether you are Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid, Green or a floating voter; whether you manufacture, distribute, or operate; whether you employ or are employed, there is no getting away from the fact that we are into the end game of the Brexit debate. Leaving, and possibly leaving without a deal, is a now a distinct reality. If nothing else the political manoeuvrings of the past couple of weeks have brought focus on the need for businesses, organisations and individuals to plan.
Many of us I am sure have not put much thought into getting ourselves ready for the new commercial landscape Brexit will bring. The amusement machine industry is after all UK focused. So why worry? In fact if we do leave and it’s cheaper to holiday in the UK might we not see an uptick in our machine income? I am sure we can deal with whatever happens when it does.
I have just had a look at some of the changes that will happen to the business landscape post Brexit. They will have an impact on us all. Anyone employing anyone from the EU will want to help them to establish their status. Machine parts, indeed anything else imported will need to pass through a new set of customs arrangements. There will be new forms to fill in. Similarly, if there are any exports to the EU there will be new rules. Are your suppliers ready to keep you supplied? Do you exchange personal data with EU organisations as there are GDPR implications. The point is, if businesses are not ready from day one, then it will take time and therefore money to get ready. In that time, competitors can march on through or customers or suppliers can just walk away.
The Government has launched a very helpful website (go to www.gov.uk and follow the links). I strongly recommend all businesses take a look.