Bacta – Written evidence (GAM0050)


Executive Summary


  1. Bacta represents the amusement machine industry.


  1. There are 310,000 machines of many different kinds from juke boxes and pool tables to fruit machines and children’s rides located in pubs, arcades, and other premises in the UK.  The industry employs 34,000 people and contributes £2 billion to the UK economy.


  1. The industry is tightly regulated and operates its own Code of Conduct which goes beyond statutory controls in for example age verification.


  1. Bacta believes that gambling is generally well-regulated in the UK and that the licensing objectives form a clear basis upon which to build legislation and regulation.


  1. Bacta does not believe however that the Gambling Commission has found the right balance in permitting gambling insofar as it is consistent with the licensing objectives.  We believe it fails to understand business and this inhibits its effectiveness as a regulator.  At times is can be pedantic, disproportionate and dismissive.  We are concerned about a tendency towards regulatory creep.


  1. The Gambling Act has not kept pace with technology.  Most gambling takes place on mobile devices that were not around in 2005.


  1. Bacta is proud of its record on age verification testing.  We blind test all our members who have age-controlled premises (which goes beyond the regulatory requirement) with a pass rate consistently around 85%.


  1. Bacta operators exhibit a duty of care towards their customers but we do not believe that this should be legal.  It would be near impossible to define and impossible to establish where that duty began and ended.


  1. The costs of problem gambling can be estimated.  Work has been done to establish a workable definition and others (Centre for Economics and Business Research) came up with a number for the cost of problem gambling associated with Fixed Odds Betting Terminals that may be instructive.  Any costs must be set against the benefits of gambling to provide context and meaning.


  1. Any mandatory levy should be based on a detailed analysis of what research is needed.  The current 1% figure is not based on any proper analysis and in any case for many businesses is unaffordable.  The public purse receives significant sums from the gambling industry and should be used to pay for education and treatment – problem gambling, like alcohol and drug addiction, should be treated as a public health issue.  Any levy should be ‘smart’ in that it should if introduced reflect the level of harm caused.  It is wrong to expect a society lottery to fund research into problem gambling at the same level as on-line sports betting which has much higher rates of problem gambling associated with it.



  1. Gambling should be part of the PSHE curriculum in schools.


  1. Young people spend their lives on-line. This is where the highest risk resides and where legislation and regulation should be designed accordingly.


  1. Permitting young people to play on amusement machines is not an ‘historical accident’ and neither is it unique to the UK.  These machines come in many shapes and sizes. There is no concern about machines such as cranes or pushers which provide the mainstay of the family fun nearly 20 million people enjoy each year.  The issue has been examined carefully numerous times since the 1960’s and the conclusion has always been that the risk of harm is so low that, with the extensive protections in place, change is not warranted.


  1. Bacta has listened to recent concerns about Category D reel-based cash payout fruit machines by instigating a new voluntary measure which only permits people over the age of 16 to play on these machines unless accompanied by an adult.







1.1.         Bacta represents the owners and operators of seaside amusement arcades, over-18 amusement centres, and the companies that hire machines to pubs, clubs, bowling alleys, bingo halls and similar venues.  It also represents the manufacturers and distributors of all types of amusement equipment.  This can range from children’s rides, to jukeboxes, fruit machines in pubs and clubs, crane grabbers, penny falls, tuppeny nudgers, test your strength machines, videos, pool tables and gaming machines.


1.2.         Bacta welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Lords Select Committee and would be happy to appear before the Committee to expand upon the responses provided below.


1.3.                        We have confined our responses to those questions where we believe we have relevant knowledge and experience to contribute.  That is not to say that we do not have a view on those questions to which we have not responded, but rather that we believe there will be individuals and organisation better qualified to provide an answer to the Committee.


  1.                            BACKGROUND


2.1.                        The amusement machine industry is a very broad church.  We have listed in paragraph 1.1 just some of the machines our industry covers.  In total there are 310,000 machines of one kind or another found in a wide range of venues some of which are also listed above.  Our industry has a collective turnover over of £1.6 billion employing directly and indirectly 34,000 people and contributing £2 billion to the UK economy annually.[1]  The industry is a significant part of the tourism and entertainment sector.


2.2.                        Bacta members are in the serious business of fun.  Our customers, like all public facing businesses, are at the heart of our offer, an offer that in one form or another can be traced back to the Victorian era when mechanical entertainments and diversions began to appear at the seaside.  The industry today provides a blend of machine-based entertainment along a spectrum that stretches from the low stake gaming machine-focused adult gaming centre (AGC), to the seaside Family Entertainment Centre that continues to provide the family-focused entertainment it has for generations.  Culturally, the industry has strong links to the travelling showmen community. At the same time it has in recent years attracted significant inward investment from two global companies, Gauselmann and Novomatic.


2.3.                        As a long-standing public facing industry we have always been alive to the need to ensure we exercise exemplary social responsibility.  Whilst the products found in our industry are by and large amusement machines, some are classified as games of chance and subject to statutory control and regulation.  We have always augmented the law with our own Code of Conduct stretching back to the time of the first modern gaming laws in the 1960s.  A copy of our current Code is attached at Appendix A [not published as evidence to the Committee]In addition, Bacta has employed since the late 1980s a team of Compliance Officers who have assisted members with their statutory and regulatory obligations as well as those under our Code. The Code remains constantly under review and Bacta has recently responded to public concerns by trialling an amendment to the Code which would augment the law and prevent persons under the age of 16 playing on Category D cash payout fruit machines unless accompanied by an adult.


2.4.                        Bacta campaigned to have the maximum permitted stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals reduced to £2.  These machines were out of kilter with the gaming machine hierarchy, caused well documented harm and as a result contributed to a negative perception of all risk-based entertainment that included many of the products Bacta members operate.  The debate around gambling activities has as a result become increasingly febrile and their Lordships are to be commended for instituting an Inquiry that will seek to make considered recommendations on the basis of the evidence put to it.


2.5.                        The end of the debate on FOBTs has allowed Bacta to return its focus to promoting its members’ amusement offer.  We launched at the beginning of the summer a campaign called Siding with the Seaside.  This campaign re-enforces many of the public policy recommendations emerging from the Lords Select Committee into Regenerating Seaside Towns.  We were pleased to see that the Government last month published the Tourism Sector Deal through which we will continue promoting the great British seaside.


  1.                            RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS


The Gambling Act


Q1.               Are the three primary aims of the Gambling Act 2005 (to prevent gambling from being source of crime or disorder, to ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and to protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling) being upheld?


3.1.         The licensing objectives set out in section 1 of the Gambling Act provide a concise and clear basis upon which to frame the subsequent sections of the Gambling Act. 


3.2.         We would point out however that in our view the necessary generality of a principle has been exploited by the Gambling Commission to exercise what has been described as ‘regulatory creep’.  In particular, and by way of example, we would suggest that the Commission now interprets the third licensing objective to protect children and vulnerable far more widely than intended.  On a natural reading of the principle it would indicate that there is a particular onus on considering for the purposes of the legislation, those who are identifiably and specifically vulnerable. That would include for example not only children but vulnerable adults such as those with learning difficulties, mental illness or affected by substance misuse.  The Commission currently reflects a view that everyone is vulnerable to gambling related harm and therefore the entire population is covered by this principle. As a result policy proposals from the Commission that have, as their intent, the putative protection of the vulnerable, are applicable to the population as a whole - most of whom gamble perfectly safely.  Recent proposals by the Commission to require retail operators to individually track players we would argue falls squarely into this camp.  Incidentally we also believe that this proposal in itself is deeply flawed.


3.3.         Gambling in this country is generally crime free and fair.  We would argue the amusement machine sector has done well in keeping it so.


Q2.               What changes, if any, are required to bring the Act up to date with new technology and the latest knowledge about how gambling harm is distributed?


3.4.                        The pace of change exhibited by developments in technology is breath-taking.  It is hard to believe that the first iPhone appeared in 2007.  This fact alone makes the point eloquently that the Gambling Act 2005 is out of date. The amount of gambling activity that takes place via mobile devices dwarfs that of any other channel.  We have no specific view on what changes to the Act are required to accommodate this development other than as a point of principle the retail and on-line sectors should in respect of their offers be broadly similar. That is to say stakes and prizes and game specifications should be equivalent.  That in itself would be a significant player protection measure. By way of example the maximum permitted stake on a Category C machine is £1.  The maximum permitted prize is £100. These machines are mainly located in pubs and AGCs.  In theory a customer could sit next to a stake and prize-limited Category C machine in a pub consuming alcohol (which is not permitted in an AGC) betting on their mobile device for stakes of a £1000 and prizes in millions.  We think this is simply wrong.


3.5.                        In an increasingly cashless society it is odd that the Act does not fully address the impact of this form of payment.  We are currently being consulted by the Gambling Commission on the desirability of the use of credit cards to gamble on-line (Bacta does not support the use of credit cards for gambling).  Of course cards are the only way that on-line gambling can be facilitated but it should be limited to debit cards so people are not directly gambling with debt.  On machines the use of credit and debit cards is prohibited.  We would suggest that cashless technology is likely to be the principal method of payment for goods and services and its role in the gambling sector needs to be properly addressed through gambling legislation.


3.6.                        Cashless technologies offer the opportunity for enhanced social responsibility measures.  Card numbers provide a unique identifier for a particular activity, can be blocked or their use constrained (by for example limiting the amount of expenditure).  All of which offers an additional tool to the problem gambler to control their gambling or to the gambler that simply wishes to budget.  For the operator it is meeting the needs of their customers by giving them the option to pay for their entertainment using a cashless method in addition to cash or ticket.


Q3.                Is gambling well regulated, including the licensing regime for both on and off-shore operations?  How successfully do the Gambling Commission, local authorities and others enforce licensing conditions including age verification? What might be learned for comparisons with other regulators and jurisdictions?


3.7.                        Broadly speaking we believe the industry is well-regulated.  It is viewed by other regulators in other countries with whom we come into contact, as an exemplar. 


3.8.                        It is a difficult challenge to balance the commercial imperatives of a legitimate and legal business activity that can cause harm (with alcohol being arguably a useful comparator), and the necessary measures that protect those that are more likely to come to some harm from that activity.  The Act gives Britain’s regulator a clear framework within which to operate, namely to ‘permit gambling insofar as it is consistent with the licensing objectives’.  Coupled with those licensing objectives this provides we believe a useful construct for the regulation of gambling in this Country.  We have made the point that the Commission in our view can be charged with regulatory creep. 


3.9.                        In a similar vein there have been a large number of consultations over recent years that have increased the depth and breadth of the Licensing Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP). 


3.10.                   We would add that our experience of regulation is that it can be overly pedantic, disproportionate and unsympathetic to the operational aspects of business.  Again the Commission has improved and we have been pleased that the Commission launched last year its Hot Shoes initiative to get its staff out into gambling premises to see how business work on a day to day basis.  This can only improve regulatory decision making.  There is still nevertheless quite a long way to go.  Operators complain frequently to Bacta that the Commission is bureaucratic, unreasonable (particularly on time scales) and lacking in industry knowledge.  This is deeply frustrating and unhelpful.


3.11.                   We have also accused the Commission in the past as being headmasterly in tone.  As a consequence operators reacted badly to requests from the Commission.  The tone has improved significantly and relationships have improved.  As a general point, Bacta believes that a good regulator will understand the industry it regulates and work in partnership to achieve commonly agreed goals.  For the gambling sector these goals are enshrined in the licensing objectives and agreed by all.  Disagreements and discussions are therefore only to be found over the method to achieve them.  Whilst we accept that the partnership will be asymmetric (the Commission is the Regulator after all), there is no reason why mutual respect and co-operation cannot be the norm.


3.12.                   In our experience, local authorities have taken their obligations under the 2005 Act seriously. They have robust statements of principles that have recently been through a statutory process of review.  They have statutory planning powers and in the case of unlicensed Family Entertainment Centres they are the controlling body.  They have enforcement teams that engage regularly with Bacta members.  Of course the experience will vary from Authority to Authority, but it has generally been a positive one.


3.13.                   In respect of age-verification, Bacta’s Code of Conduct goes beyond the statutory obligations and requires ALL its members operating Adult Gaming Centres to undertake age-verification testing at least once a year. Our industry pass rate is consistently above 80% with a goal of achieving 100%.  It is important to note that the failure rate of a test is not indicative, as the media often suggest, that there is an equivalent percentage of people under the legal minimum age entering the premises.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The AV test is rather a test of the robustness of a premise’s protocols and procedures.  Where a test is failed, Bacta will assist its members through additional training and a retest will be conducted.  Operators do not know when tests will take place. The testing protocol itself has been approved by our Primary Authority in Reading.  Local Authority/Gambling Commission AV tests supplement the industry’s testing regime.  Failures are treated with a high degree of seriousness.


3.14.                   Pub companies have recently begun to focus more actively on age-verification in their venues.  A code of practice is being developed and random age verification tests will become more widespread. There has been some delay in producing a testing protocol following consultation with the Gambling Commission we understand which is unfortunate.  Bacta machine manufacturers have agreed to offer pub customers on their products the opportunity to display an age confirmation message which a player must answer in the affirmative before the machine can be played.


Q4. Should gambling operators have a legal duty of care to their customers?


3.15.                   No. Operators should put the welfare of their customers first.  Nobody wants to profit from someone who is in distress or not enjoying the experience they are purchasing.  This duty of care however should not be a legal duty.  It would be near impossible to determine the extent of that duty of care and the extent of any responsibility and thereafter liability.  This is a concept that has been explored extensively in the alcohol sector in relation to death or injury which occurred as result of alcohol affected decision making by a pub customer.  It is suggested their Lordships take evidence on this question from legal experts from the alcohol/licensing sector.


3.16.                   It is worth acknowledging that for our sector the level of care demonstrated by operators is extensive.  In addition to the licensing requirements and Bacta’s industry Code, the structure of the amusement machine sector as a customer facing business means that operators are constantly seeking to ensure appropriate levels of supervision of customers’ activities.  This is done on a face to face basis (as opposed to an electronically generated intervention) which brings sensitivity, nuance and diligence to the interaction from well-trained staff who can make sensible decisions about what is best for the customer.  It is for this reason as well as the prohibitive cost, that Bacta is opposed to the introduction of player tracking for machine players.


Social and Economic Impact


Q5.  What are the social and economic costs of gambling?  These might include costs associated with poor health and hospital inpatient services; welfare and employment costs; the cost of benefit claims; lost tax receipts; housing costs through statutory homelessness applications; and criminal justice costs.


3.17.                   In answer to this question we would simply refer to the Gambling Commission supported work of Dr Heather Wardle, Dr Gerda Reith et al which can be found here.  This is important work and provides a now widely adopted definition. We do not think the definition is perfect but is workable.


3.18.                   It is worth noting that the question implies that all gambling has a social and economic cost.  It does not.  The question surely refers to problem gambling and that is what we have assumed.


3.19.                   The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) undertook a study of the social and economic impact of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.  We attach a copy of their work at Appendix B [not published as evidence to the Committee] (Chapter 5) as their Lordships may find the analysis helpful in answering this question more generally.


Q6.               What are the social and economic benefits of gambling?  How can they               be measured?


3.20.                   The majority of the population gamble in some shape or form and the majority do so without experiencing gambling-related harm.  It is important to acknowledge that their participation in gambling is a leisure pursuit that brings definite but intangible social benefits associated with the well-being leisure activities of all kinds bring.  In addition, the positive economic impact of any industry with a £14 billion turnover needs to be considered in weighing public policy decisions.  The Gambling industry pays direct and indirect taxes, employs people and supports a supply chain that has value to the country and its people.  The economics are relatively easily captured and measured.  The welfare benefits are harder to quantify but similar approaches to that used to measure harm could and should be employed to allow for a balanced consideration of the public policy issues facing Government and others.




Q7.               Is the money raised by the levy adequate to meet the current needs for research, education and treatment?  How effective is the voluntary levy?  Would a mandatory levy or other alternative arrangement be more productive and effective? How should the income raised by a levy be spent, and how should the outcome be monitored?  What might be learned from international comparisons?


3.21.                   Researchers have made a compelling case for additional research into gambling.  They have said that the current levy does not generate enough to fund the research required.  We should take that at face value.


3.22.                   It is also the case that problem gambling treatment services are few and far between.  Treating problem gambling as a public health issue would bring this provision into the mainstream and unlock the public funding it warrants in the same way as for drug and alcohol problems.


3.23.                   We believe that the approach to funding that research is relatively straight-forward.  Researchers should identify what research needs to be done and the cost of doing it.  That should then be the money the industry should in large part find.  This may or may not be more or less than the oft quoted 1% of gross gaming yield but will be linked to research requirements not a figure that is plucked from the air.  The research funding is most easily administered through an existing research council such as the MRC.  Those funds can be collected on a voluntary basis or a mandatory basis.  Education and treatment should be funded via the public health budget.


3.24.                   Bacta is not opposed to a mandatory levy but would point out that introducing one has associated costs that will have to be met (collecting and administering funds in an open and accountable way will require a bureaucratic infrastructure).  This will be money that is not spent on Research Education or Treatment.  We would also point out that the 1% figure has been pulled out of the air.  It has no solid basis.  For many it would have a considerable impact on their businesses (and would be unfair – see para 3.25).  Before any levy amount can be determined the process we outline above has to be pursued.  As we also point out any levy is only part of the funding pot.  Gambling business pay taxes of various kinds (betting, gaming and machine duties, VAT, income tax and National Insurance which in total are not insignificant contributors to the Exchequer.  The amusement machine industry covering both games of chance and skill or entertainment machines contributes alone £2 billion to the economy. The industry also pays fees to the Gambling Commission to fund their work. There is a need for a public health approach to problem gambling that rightly should unlock funds from the public purse as is the case with alcohol and drug related problem behaviours. 


3.25.                   Bacta also believes that if there is to be a mandatory levy then it should be constructed in a way that not only reflects research requirements but which also weighs the relative contribution to gambling related harm associated with different products.  It is unreasonable for non-contentious and relatively harmless forms of gambling such as the public health lottery or providers of seaside amusements such as penny falls machines, to pay a levy at the same rate as say on-line casinos or sports betting sites where there is no limit on stakes and prizes. It is also worth noting that the retail gambling sector has a cost basis that the on-line sector does not and that this might be a factor that needs to be taken into account should a mandatory levy be entertained.


3.26.                   We would argue that in the meantime it is imperative that the Gambling Commission does what it can to compel operators to contribute the current 0.1% to RET.  Some operators do not.




Q8.                How might we improve the quality and timeliness of research in the UK?  What changes, if any, should be made to the current arrangements founding, commissioning and evaluating research in the UK?  What might be learned from international comparisons?


3.27.                   We refer to answers above.  A voluntary or mandatory contribution matched to research needs and administered through an existing research council would in our view be the most appropriate model.  Industry could meet the lion’s share of the research funding through that contribution but not all.  Funding for education and treatment properly rests within the public purse.  As mentioned in 3.24 the industry makes substantial additional contributions to the Exchequer.


3.28.                   Questions of independence from the industry, which have been raised, are for others to debate but our perspective is the above model, i.e. funds are paid to, granted and administered by an independent body, should allay any concerns that there is industry or other influence over the research undertaken or the results it uncovers.


3.29.                   Diversity is recognised as being important for all organisations seeking to take decisions that properly balance and acknowledge diverse views and perspectives.  Decisions are better as a result. In the research field our view is that diversity is lacking – diversity is not just about skin colour or gender it is about background, experience and approach. It is our perception that research is dominated by middle class academic thinking and it does not accommodate sufficiently a wide range of potentially difficult views from others.  We readily admit that this is a perception and would welcome an opportunity to be proved wrong on this point.  Nevertheless we believe that in the gambling research space researchers must look to the lived experience of ALL gamblers and try to understand better wider perspectives on research topics from say industry.  If that research is independent (see above) then there should be no fear that listening to these wider voices would diminish the value of the work.


Q9.                If, as the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) (now the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling) has suggested, there is limited evidence on which to base sound decisions about gambling by children and young people, what steps should be taken to rectify this situation?


3.30.                   We refer to our answers above.  If there is a research gap it is for the researchers in this field to identify it and to propose through the system that exists or will exist what research is necessary. Funding is currently available through Gamble Aware.




Q10.                Is enough being done to provide effective public education about gambling?  If no, what more should be done?


3.31.                   It is our view that the population is generally well aware of the upsides and downsides of gambling.  It is a feature of many people’s lives and gambling opportunities of whatever kind continue to be part of everyday life.  People will have all sorts of views about gambling as a pastime as well as about the perception of odds and chances of winning.  People often behave irrationally around gambling as the increase in participation in the National Lottery shows when there are a number of rollovers.  It is for many these half-acknowledged self-delusions around the chances of winning that add to the popularity of gambling as a leisure pursuit.


3.32.                   Nevertheless it is important that choices are as well informed as they can be.  In relation to gambling this is routed in mathematics and statistics and therefore is a function of the quality of maths education in the country.


3.33.                   It is also suggested that gambling, given that it can lead, like alcohol, to harm for some, is taught in schools as part of the PSHE curriculum. It is acknowledged that this is a crowded space but like other parts of the PSHE timetable it is important to give schoolchildren the opportunity to think about the issues surrounding gambling activity through a broader and less academic approach.




Q11.                Are the services available for the treatment and support of people at risk of being harmed by gambling sufficient and effective?  How might they be improved?  What steps might be taken to improve the uptake of treatment, particularly among groups who are most likely to experience harm from gambling and least likely to seek help?



3.34.                   We would defer to experts in this field for a detailed response to this question.  Our perspective however is that provision for treatment is currently insufficient and that a public health approach to treatment would significantly redress the balance, putting the treatment of gambling related problems on a par with those arising from drugs and alcohol.


Q12.                What steps should be taken to better understand any link between suicide and gambling?


3.35.                   Again we would defer to experts in this field for a detailed answer to this question.




Q13.                The RGSB has said that by not taking action to limit the exposure of young people to gambling advertising ‘we are in danger of inadvertently conducting an uncontrolled social experiment on today’s youth, the outcome of which is uncertain but could be significant’.  Do you agree?  How should we make decisions about the regulation of gambling advertising?  What might be learned from international comparisons?


3.36.                   Bacta members do not advertise much beyond their own localities and we are unaware of any broadcast advertising having taken place.  Bacta believes that much of the concern around advertising stems from the sheer volume of sports betting advertising on television and greater emphasis needs to be placed on understanding its impact, particularly on young people.  A sober and measured approach to understanding is required rather than knee-jerk responses based on perception, and we refer back to our answers around research above.  Those with an academic interest in this area need to come forward with proposals that can be funded properly to deliver helpful answers.  Useful comparisons with the evidence base generated by similar concerns about the impact of advertising cereals and other foodstuffs to children could inform the debate.


Gambling and Sport


Q14.                Gambling is becoming an integral part of a growing number of sports, with increasingly close relationships between operators and sports clubs, leagues and broadcasters/ What are the risks attached to this?


3.37.                   We would defer to experts in this field for a detailed answer to this question as well as our answers above about research.


Gambling by young people and children


Q15.                How are new forms of technology, including social media, affecting children’s experiences of gambling?  How are these experiences affecting gambling behaviour now, and how might they affect behaviour in the future?


3.38.                   Young people and children spend their social lives on-line.  They meet, interact and use their mobile devices to learn and to play.  So it stands to reason that any gambling activity they may participate in is these days going to be largely in the on-line space.  We know from the Gambling Commission’s annual participation survey that this is the case.  We also know that the participation survey does not capture everything that this cohort might do on-line which would be classed as gambling.  For example children and young people might be invited to participate in a simple quiz or even just invited to text in their mobile number to win prizes associated with a TV programme.  This was the case with the Gadget Show.  Also there has been much discussion recently of loot boxes in video games.  These are prevalent and an unavoidable part of the gaming scene.  Whilst the Gambling Commission does not class this as gambling, most people would argue that it is.  We would concur.  Furthermore we would argue that as the use of the mobile device is a solitary activity that often takes place at home and away from supervision that the impacts of gambling in this way are potentially and likely to be more serious.  More research is needed to say so definitively but as we said above the growth of technology has outpaced our gambling legislation and its use by adults and young people is not sufficiently well studied nor regulated.


Q16.                The legal availability of certain forms of commercial gambling to under-18s in Great Britain it is unusual by international standards and has been described as an ‘historical accident’.  Should young people between 16 and 18 be able to purchase National Lottery products, including draw-based games, scratch cards and online instant wins?


Q17.                Should children be allowed to play Category D games machines (which include fruit machines, pushers and cranes)?


3.39.                   The legal availability of certain forms of commercial gambling is not unusual by international standards.  Products such as cranes and penny fall machines can be found across the globe.  A list of countries with developed legal codes that permit under 18s to gamble is included at Appendix C [not published as evidence to the Committee].  As can be seen, the form of gambling permitted is akin to that of Britain’s Category D products like crane grab machines and penny falls machines.


3.40.                   To describe the availability of certain forms of gambling to under-18s in Great Britain as an historical accident is incorrect.  This country has had a unique and diverse gaming offer that has been well-regulated since the 1960s.  This question has been explored many times by the Rothschild Committee in 1974, by the Budd Report in 2001 and by Parliament on the four occasions when it has considered new gambling legislation (1968 Gaming Act, 1974 Lotteries and Amusements Act, 1996 Deregulation Order and 2005 Gambling Act).  On each occasion the considered view was that certain forms of gambling did not present sufficient concerns to warrant any change to the status quo.  These games were what are now classified as Category D machines and were known more accurately under previous legislation as Amusement with Prizes machines. They provide amusement with a small prize and are games of chance or chance and skill combined.  They are designed as a diversion and entertainment where the player essentially pays for some time on the machine and sometimes wins a prize.  Please see Appendix D [not published as evidence to the Committee] for a layman’s guide to Category D machines.


3.41.                   It was also acknowledged that these types of games formed the backbone of Britain’s family seaside arcades.  We know from our PWC report that approaching a third of the British population enjoys visiting these arcades each year. They provide local jobs and economic activity in towns up and down the country that have little in the way of other economic activity.  Without them these towns would fall into further decline.  Bacta welcomed the Report of the Lords Select Committee that looked at the regeneration of seaside towns and is now campaigning for its recommendations to be implemented.  Seaside arcades will be one of the pillars upon which the success of the initiatives recommended can be built.  It is already the case that the private investment provided by seaside amusement arcade operators has added considerably to the amenity value of towns up and down the country.  It is also true that it is the income from the seaside arcades that keeps Britain’s Piers from falling into the sea.


3.42.                   The 2005 Gambling Act nevertheless made some significant changes to the regulation of Category D machines.  Bacta supports these changes.  They have struck the right balance between ensuring proper regulation without strangling the enjoyment they provide to generations of families. They include (on top of planning controls):



3.43.                   The Gambling Commission’s Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice have additional provisions that relate to FECs. The Commission also provides detailed guidance to Local Authorities.


3.44.                   Industry also imposes further controls on itself to ensure the protection of children is watertight.  Bacta’s Code of Conduct and Social Responsibility Charter includes a mandatory provision that no local school children are allowed on the FEC premises during school hours.  Bacta has also been trialling over the Summer a new condition that will require members to prevent anyone under the age of 16 playing on a Category D cash payout fruit-machine unless accompanied by an adult.  This will be evaluated in September and if, as expected the trial is a success, will be incorporated into our Code at the Annual General Meeting later this year.  A copy of a sticker we have made available to members to use in the trial is attached at Appendix E [not published as evidence to the Committee].


3.45.                   We would add that ensuring our staff are well-trained and well-versed in their responsibilities, is central to our mission as the trade body for the sector.  We provide face to face training through our Regional Compliance Officers and have hosted a very successful Social Responsibility Exchange to allow staff to share best practice.  Our next Exchange is in November.  We will shortly be widening our training offer to members through an on-line training portal.


3.46.                   It is worth pointing out that there is one additional logistical control on the access to seaside arcades by young people, namely their location.  For the majority of the population the only way to visit the arcade will be with an adult as they are located at the coast and it would take a train or car journey to reach them.


3.47.                   It is therefore no surprise to find that these measures coupled with the preference by young people for modern forms of entertainment that the participation rates in fruit machine gambling is now their lowest ever at 3%.


3.48.                   We also know from a study by Professor David Forrest and Dr Ian McHale[2] that whilst adolescents at the coast are more likely to participate in gambling activities than those that do not, they are no more likely to be problem gamblers than those that do not live at the coast.  This is an important finding.  Many people cite early exposure to gambling as a cause of later gambling problems.  There is no evidence of a causal link.  As David Forrest stated at conference in Toronto in 2012 ‘marginal gamblers induced to participation by ease of access do not appear prone to problem gambling and more children gambling does not carry through to more children being problem gamblers. Panic about arcades does not appear justified’.


3.49.                   That is not to say that some young people do not experience gambling-related harm even if it is only for a short while. This has can have serious impacts for them and their family.   The question has to be whether the measures currently in place do enough to minimise the occurrence and impact of gambling related harm.  We would argue the balance is currently right.  Nearly 20 million people enjoy family seaside arcades every year and the regulations and self-imposed controls we have in place minimise the chance that any of them whether young or old, will experience gambling related harm.




Q18                The restrictions on society lotteries were relaxed by the Gambling Act 2005, and there is concern that some of them are effectively being taken over by large commercial lotteries,  Is this concern well-founded?  If so, what should be done?


Q19.                Should changes be made to the statutory regime governing the National Lottery, to bring it into line with the regime governing operator of other lotteries?


3.50.                   We have no opinion on these questions.


6 September 2019

[1] PWC 2015 copy available on request

[2] Journal of Gambling Studies December 2012