Peter Hannibal, CEO of the Gambling Business Group, seeks any scraps of comfort as reputations are trashed in an internecine war.
Isn’t it fabulous that at last we now all know the outcome of the DCMS’s Gambling Review?
Whilst some are still inevitably revelling in the euphoria of the result,others are quietly licking their wounds contemplating what they should have done better and what to do next.
What we have witnessed happening over the last five years or so is the gambling industries own version of Brexit, with one cohort of the land-based industry taking ever increasing chunks out of the bookies and vice versa. Inflicting as much damage as possible to one another’s reputation seemed to be the only, some would say myopic ‘modus operandi’.
The reason the word ‘myopic’ is fitting becomes apparent when you take a step back from the euphoria for just a minute and look at who has got what out of this review.
Starting from the top of the theoretical regulatory pyramid:
Casinos; got nothing. No increase in machine numbers,no increase in jackpots, no parity for 1968 Act casino licences. In fact a backward step is that casinos will lose their entitlement to include automated roulette terminals in the table-to-machine ratios.
Bookies; got nothing. Only a dramatic reduction in stakes for B2 machine games and now a razor sharp focus on B3 games.
AGCs; got nothing. AGCs are now also subject to the same razor sharp focus on B3 machine games as the bookies, along with their Cat C machine games.
Bingo; got nothing. As the innocent bystanders in the battle described above, bingo is now subject to the same unwanted B3 scrutiny as AGCs.
Arcades; got nothing. No change to stakes and prizes on Category D machines
Pubs; got nothing. Caught up in the crossfire, machines in pubs are now regarded as ‘anomalous’ in the regulatory framework by some ‘experts’ and are subsequently coming under a social responsibility spotlight.
So on reflection when you ask yourself if this gambling review has been a success, it is hard to see that it has been beneficial for anyone. Some may say that there will be revenue substitution elsewhere from the B2 stake reduction, but the research undertaken by a number of operators does not support this theory. Time will tell.
Gambling is not only a political no-go area, it is also being highlighted by our own regulator as increasingly lacking in public confidence. The chances of seeing another review of stakes and prizes for gaming machines anytime soon is about as likely as Nigel Farage becoming Prime Minister. We are not only stuck with this new set of circumstances,we have no discernible prospect of having another opportunity to give any sector a much needed stake boost.
So, the lasting legacy of the B2 battle is the damage that we have inflicted upon ourselves and to our public reputation. I see no cause for celebration here.
Is there a way forward for the industry?
Wounds will take a long time to heal and even then, the scars will not be easily hidden. But there is one subject that the industry should be looking to unite behind. There is one subject that if we genuinely embrace it with hearts and minds as well as talking about it, it might just be a strategy back to recovery. That subject is social responsibility.
Some might argue that we have been ‘led by the nose’ with the responsible gambling agenda to date. Much of what we are doing has been either as a defence mechanism or is prescribed in the National Responsible Gambling Strategy. There are very few examples of the industry taking the lead on improving social responsibility measures in gambling, yet it has a material impact upon the reputations of all of us and our businesses.
If there is any good at all to come out of the Gambling Review, it should be a renewed and united focus on the recovery of the industry’s reputation through a ramping up of our social responsibility culture and credentials.