November 22nd saw Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew delivering a speech at the Annual Convention of the British Amusement Catering Trade Association (Bacta), confirming that the government intends to move forward with the publication of its gambling white paper by 2024. The proposals outlined in the white paper aim to introduce a number of changes to gambling-related legislation, which will modernise land-based gambling should they be implemented as planned by summer 2024.
Mr Andrew began by acknowledging the arcade and amusement sector’s significance for the UK economy, and he reaffirmed the government’s dedication to offering support to industry players amid commercial challenges. Modernisation was presented as the key solution to the said hurdles.
Making Land-Based Gambling Suitable for Today’s Customers
The current 80/20 rule was the first proposal to be addressed by Mr Andrew. The rule currently dictates that up to 20% of an establishment’s gambling equipment can comprise Category B machines. The rest must fall under categories C or D. According to Mr Andrew, the government recognises that the said ratio is no longer appropriate for neither businesses nor clients, a sentiment shared by Bacta members as shown by the feedback and evidence they have provided to the government regarding the matter. He also noted that the government has sought consultation on weather to do away with the 80/20 ratio as a whole.
The next issue Stuart Andrew focused on was that of the piece of legislation that currently prohibits the direct usage of debit cards when it comes to gambling equipment, and he stated that this ban is not suitable for the spending habits of modern UK gamblers. Mr Andrew also emphasised that amending this legislation would take time due to the technical challenges distributors and operators alike would need to overcome. An emphasis was also put on the necessity of introducing a framework of minimum standards that can ensure consumer safety.
Mr Andrew also sought to address the age limit proposal that will affect Category D fruit machines. He stressed that this change would be made with Family Entertainment Centres in mind, i.e., such machines would not need to be relocated to age-restricted areas. He also thanked Bacta members for the organisation’s own implementation of such a ban, which has been in effect since 2021.
The Significance of the Statutory Levy Proposal
The final topic Mr Andrew touched upon during his speech was that of the proposed statutory levy that would affect online gambling operators. He began by putting an emphasis on the levy’s significance in securing funding for harm prevention, research, and the provision of resources to members of the public who are in need of help.
Mr Andrew continued, reassuring that operator and distributor concerns surrounding the 0.4% levy rate would be put into consideration before the white paper’s implementation. In contrast, land-based operators will be subject to a 0.1% statutory levy should the proposal come to pass, and this “proportionate approach” would not have a negative impact on the sector, according to the MP.
Mr Andrew also implored Bacta members to submit their responses by the consultation’s December 14th deadline if they have not yet done so. He ended his speech by expressing gratitude towards Bacta for the invitation, and he stated that he hoped he has been successful in showing that his “door is open and will remain open” when it comes to the government’s introduction of what he hoped are policies that would lead to a “sustainable future.”
Daniel Williams has started his writing career as a freelance author at a local paper media. After working there for a couple of years and writing on various topics, he found his interest for the gambling industry.