The most successful Bacta seminar programme on record

The newly branded bacta ‘thinkbite’ seminars which were a popular feature of EAG 2024 succeeded in attracting industry professionals from all sectors of the business eager to listen to the latest thinking and opinions delivered by a range of experts from both inside and outside the industry. The four sessions which took place on the Tuesday and Wednesday of EAG were curated to deliver powerful insights in short seminar style ‘thinkbite’ formats leaving delegates hungry to learn more about subjects comprising trends in the pub sector, the dynamics, challenges and future of high street retailing as well as the central importance of embedding safer gambling practices into an AGC/FEC business and getting compliance right.

The Pub Summit

The Pub Summit has built a reputation for being the best attended seminar at EAG and this year’s edition which featured a broad cross section of experts from both sides of the business raised the bar even further.

Peter Davies who moderated the Summit reflected: “It was fantastic to see so many people in attendance: it was literally standing room only and by far the best attended Summit we’ve had to date!” Davies believes EAG is the perfect industry event to host the Summit stating: “I think the quality of visitors in attendance and the direct relevance of the products being exhibited to the Pub sector make the combination highly complementary.”

Summarising the 90-minutes of conversation, debate and knowledge exchange he said: “The underlying takeaway was the importance of machine revenue to Pub operators. Simon Barff presented on how gaming machines continue to appeal to pub customers, in particular the choice offered by multi game digital Cat C terminals. It was also clear that there is a real need to review technical standards and stake and prize levels of Cat C which have not kept pace with inflation.

“Quentin Stott endorsed the appeal of the gaming machine and established that new product developments come at a significant cost to developers which needs to be recognised and supported.  

“The Summit was not just about gaming and we had some real operator insight from Nick Rudd and Chris Black into the appeal of Pool, the resurgence of the Jukebox and the increased ‘in venue’ spend these products can drive over the bar.

“Pauline Bass was able to provide a Pub Operator perspective on the vitally important incremental revenue streams machines can deliver for Pubs which are suffering a perfect storm of rising costs and frankly rely on machine revenue to be able to remain open to serve customers and the wider community.”

Looking to the future he noted: “Everyone I’ve spoken to found the insight useful and particularly enjoyed the panel discussion. Machine suppliers would welcome the opportunity to hear more from pub operators on developing trends, macro sector trading updates and outlook insight so perhaps we can look to lead with this next year.”

Whether the industry should be working closer with the on-trade at trade association level, he said: “I think bacta, UK Hospitality and the British Beer and Pub association have already developed a close working relationship and I am sure this will continue given the common goal of ensuring the pub sector returns to growth and thrives, creating jobs, contributing to economic growth and serving local communities.”

The High Street Summit

A new initiative for 2024, the High Street Summit debated the issues facing this part of the economy and how they interplay with the AGC and FEC offer. 

The hosted discussion which was moderated by Tony Boulton, MERKUR UK’s Director of Public and Political Relations, featured invited speakers including James Lowman, CEO, Association of Convenience Stores who explained how the trade body has leveraged political support for the High Street and Michael Kill of the Night Time Industries Association who outlined the growing importance of the night time economy.

The Summit also benefitted from a report on the changing nature of the high street produced by Pragmatix Consultancy, an industry overview from Coinslot’s Chris Jones all of which was underpinned by the lived experience of Luxury Leisure’s Ian Miller and Steve Ambrose, from MERKUR Slots both of whom provided insight gained from their engagement with planning and local authorities.

Reflecting on the Summit Tony Boulton said: “It was really useful to have a range of opinions and perspectives and not simply to have the industry talking to itself.

“We had three external voices and it was clear that we have a lot in common particularly with the Night Time Industries Association whose members suffer from a similar negative narrative. We have a lot to learn from each other’s experience and it would be interesting to explore areas in which we could collaborate particularly as our industry embraces 24-hour retailing.”

“The presentation by Pragmatix set the tone for discussions and outlined how fundamental the changes taking place on the high street are, not least the shift towards leisure.

“Despite the fact that low stake gaming is one of the very few sectors which is currently investing in the high street it is also where the industry receives most opposition, although as Ian and Steve testified once AGCs are open and trading that opposition which is based on unfounded fears and ignorance fades away

“James Lowman, CEO of the Association of Convenience Stores the trade body which represents 33,500 local shops provided a completely different perspective on the political significance of the high street particularly during an election year.”

Referencing the response from the audience Tony Boulton noted: “We had some great questions from the floor and there was a desire for the industry to be more forthright in how it markets and promotes itself. There were some interesting suggestions from Coinslot’s Chris Jones who felt there was an opportunity to redefine what we do citing the work of the University of Nevada Las Vegas which has developed the concept of the ‘Fun Economy’ a huge sector which is nine times bigger than the global pharmaceutical industry.”

“The purpose of the thinkbite seminar programme is to stimulate debate and open up fresh opportunities: having a diversity of views in particular from outside the business was crucial in helping to deliver what was a really useful 90-minutes of discussion.”

Embedding Safer Gambling/Getting your compliance right

These two sessions reflected the central importance of Safer Gambling and Compliance exploring how AGC and FEC operators can embed good SG practice into their business, why it is important and how it benefits businesses in the short, medium and long-term(s). 

The Safer Gambling session was moderated by Rob Mabbett, Engagement Director at Better Change, one of the exhibitors on the bacta Safer Gambling Hub.

There’s not much that Rob doesn’t know about the gambling industry. Having previously worked for BETFRED where he was named Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year in 2016 he subsequently became Director of External Engagement at Gordon Moody, the UK’s leading treatment provider and from there on to Better Change which he joined in May 2023.

Drawing on his experience of working on both sides of the fence he said: “The land-based sector makes up a huge part of the gambling industry both in the UK and around the world so it is of huge importance that EAG provided a focus on safer gambling. A lot of the consultations around new safer gambling measures have been aimed at the online market such as affordability checks and stake limits but we need to ensure that we are also catering for the needs of our consumers offline. 

“Interacting with customers is different offline, it is often in person and it takes a different skill set compared to online communications. The same can be said for risk management, customer identification and self-exclusion so it is fantastic to see the team at EAG and bacta championing safer gambling at their flagship event.

“From our perspective at Better Change, safer gambling is good for business, but it is only good if it engages with the consumer and re-enforces good practice and good behaviours as opposed to being restrictive and only coming into effect as a reaction to an issue. 

The seminar provided the perfect platform for us to engage with delegates and examine how our services can support the industry in all aspects of customer care but also for the industry to challenge back on the impact and the outcomes of the services on offer. 

The engagement from the seminar and the quality of delegates across the exhibition made it a very worthwhile three days cementing its place as one of the standout events in our calendar.”

On the opening day of EAG delegates attended a session entitled: The new rules of gambling – getting your compliance right. Featuring contributions from bacta Executive Director George McGregor and Membership Support Officer Simon Bradbury the session focussed on the changes proposed in the Gambling Review White Paper and explored the ways in which they are likely to be implemented. It also discussed what good compliance looks like and provided an extended Q&A session on what it will mean for operators.