22nd July 2020

Dear Member




Despite indications to the contrary the Scottish Government today wrote to relevant trade bodies to confirm that no machines are to be available for play in Scotland.  This included betting offices and pubs as well as AGC and FECs.  

Bookies have been saying publicly in-shop and in the press that the SG had given them the go-ahead to switch on machines from 22nd July.  We were told last Friday that to be consistent that AGCs would be opening on the same day – but this had to be signed off by Ministers.  We also sought clarification that machines in pubs could be used as some councils and police were saying they were banned or illegal, which they were not.  Up until last night we had solid information that the SG was going to confirm this in writing today.

That leaves members in Scotland, who have geared themselves up to open, or who have been supplying machines to pubs for two weeks now, not being able to function until next Friday at the earliest.  It’s an outrageous way to behave and indicative of decision makers who have never been near a business in their lives.

We need to make a lot of noise about this.  I have today asked for an urgent meeting with Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Cabinet Minister responsible.  We need members in Scotland to bombard their MSPs with the evidence of the impact of this decision on your business.  I have drafted a few short template letters below that you can use.   If you can use your own words please do so as its more authentic but if you are pushed  for time, please cut and paste.  I have also been in touch with the BBC to see if they are interested in doing a story on this dog’s dinner of decision making.



In Wales we have made no further progress on the rates issue.  The Government official leading on this is away for two weeks!    We have however had some press coverage of one council that is trying to claw back a grant they made at the start of the crisis.  It beggar’s belief that a local welsh council is effectively trying to drive a good local business out of existence when they have been given money specifically to help businesses that have been negatively impacted by the crisis.

In slightly better news, it seems our re-opening guidance as amended (and circulated last week) is acceptable to the WG.  It has gone forward with a recommendation to Ministers that we be allowed to open from 27th July.  This is only a recommendation and earlier indications were for August 3rd.  As we know from experience in Scotland and England we can’t be 100% sure until we have it in writing



Not Covid related, but with arcades and pubs open in England crime begins to be a feature of our industry once again.  There is a new issue bubbling up with a company/individual buying machines from a major manufacturer and selling them on with the games unlocked for a fixed fee.  It is likely that further frauds are being introduced as it seems there is a gang of people seemingly knowing how to trigger wins. Details are a bit sketchy at the moment but can I just advise all members to only buy from companies licensed by the Gambling Commission to sell gaming machines.  We will keep you posted on this one.


Letters to MSPs


Seaside Operators


Dear X




The Scottish Government has said today that my business cannot reopen for business at the earliest before 31st July.


As you know I run seaside arcades in X.  I employ Y local people.  The Government’s lockdown has meant that I have had no income since the end of the last season in September 2019.  With schools going back in August I have a matter of weeks to salvage even just a tiny part of the season before we effectively close down until next Easter. Despite government support we have still had to carry significant costs just to keep our business alive.  If we don’t get open it is touch and go whether I can make it through the winter.


I am struggling to understand the decision. The Government has made much of getting tourism going.  Tourism businesses, although not mine, were allowed to open from 15th July.  I have prepared for re-opening following the Government’s and my sectors guidance, to the letter.  That has cost me even more money.  We are safe.  Far safer that numerous businesses that have already been allowed to open.  We know from the fact that seaside arcades have been open successfully in England since July 4th, that we can run our business safely.


Can I please implore you to speak with relevant Ministers to reverse this non-sensical decision to keep us closed.  We are a tourist business.  We simply have to get open


High Street Operators


Dear X




Last week the Scottish Government indicated that I would be able to open my business from 22nd July.


As you know I run …… X.  I employ Y local people.  The Government’s lockdown has meant that I have had no income since the middle of March. Despite government support we have still had to carry significant costs just to keep our business alive.  Getting open on the 22nd was welcome news.  Despite this needing to be confirmed by Ministers I had to prepare.  Staff needed to come off furlough, machines need to be re-floated, premises needed to be deep cleaned.  I have put in place all the necessary risk mitigation measure the Government’s and my sector’s guidance suggests.  I am ready to go and I am safe for customers.

Now, today,  I am told that I am not able to open until the 31st July at the earliest.  How can a business and its people be treated like this?  These promises, indications and last minute decisions are causing significant costs that I can ill afford and are impacting the mental health of my staff.  We are safe to open, far safer than many other businesses that are already open, and  there is no reason why I cannot be open and contributing to Scotland’s economy and getting people back to work.

Can I implore you to speak with relevant Ministers and get them to overturn this non-sensical decision to keep us closed.  There is no reason for it.  I need to open.


Single site Operators


Dear X




My business supplies pool tables, juke boxes and fruit machines to pubs and clubs in X.


We have had no income since pubs were told to close in March.  Neither have we benefited from the retail leisure and hospitality rates relief scheme and associated grants despite being in the leisure sector.  Even with the help with staff wages, I am still incurring significant costs just to keep the business alive.


It was welcome news at last to see pubs in Scotland get fully open a couple of weeks ago.  This meant customers could play the machines I supply providing at least some income to me and to the pub trade.  Costs have also obviously risen as staff come off furlough to work but it felt like we were moving in the right direction.


A number of local authorities and police in some areas had said to publicans that they could not have their machines on as this presented a covid risk and was contrary to Government Guidance. This is not correct. Government guidance does not mention machines and so my trade body, bacta, and the pub trade bodies, worked hard to produce guidance that would allow publicans to provide machines perfectly safely. This has been helpful and pubs have been operating their machines quite happily.  We asked the Scottish Government to clarify that machines were OK to use to take away any confusion on the part of local council and police and up until last night we were led to believe very reliably by Government sources, that the guidance would be issued to today to do just that.


Today, however, we were told the opposite, namely that no machines could be used in pubs (nor in betting offices nor arcades).  This is outrageous.  You cannot treat businesses like this.  We simply cannot turn our business on and off like a light switch.  This has massive cost implications and logistical challenges, not least the fact that I have £XX of float sitting in my machines that is now doing nothing.  My staff are being pulled from pillar to post by Government inconsistency.   My customers are losing valuable income at a time when profitability has been seriously compromised.


Can I implore you to speak with relevant Ministers to get them to see sense and reverse this non-sensical decision.  Machines can be operated perfectly safely in pubs.  The Covid risk is lower from machines than it is from the tables and chairs pub customers will be sitting on.  We simply have to have machines on.



John White

Chief Executive

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