Simon Storer – Head of Communications bacta
The starting gun has only just been fired and although we are still a long four months away from the actual Brexit referendum there has already been enough comment, analysis and column inches to last most people a life-time. How on earth the majority of people will stay interested throughout the course, let alone, be able to cut through the rhetoric and inevitable scare-mongering to make a rational decision, is anybody’s guess. The scary thing of course is that, unlike in a general election where you can have another go five years later and reverse the result, if enough people agree with you, the Brexit referendum is somewhat more permanent and much more far reaching. In fact, as we keep being told, this is a once-in–a-lifetime decision and there ain’t no going back – so you had better get it right!
My concern, despite my own view of which way we should jump regarding the EU, is what happens to the rest of government business outside of Brexit and more specifically the Triennial Review of stakes and prizes that is scheduled for this year?
So much of our industry’s future development and investment plans hinge on changes that are brought in as a response to the Triennial Review and the subsequent consultation the Review throws up. It should not be too much to hope therefore, that the government gets this underway as speedily as possible, as many livelihoods in our sector will be affected by it.
We have been hearing rumours that an announcement is imminent for rather too long. There was an inkling back in November, with every month since being a possible candidate and now as we head rapidly towards spring we are still waiting.
I am told from very good sources that there is not a blockage as such, but that the government just hasn’t got around to announcing it. We do know it must have cabinet approval and that’s where my concern for the Triennial announcement stems. Despite all the assurance that the Brexit referendum will be undertaken in a most comradely fashion, we should not forget however, this is politicians we are talking about and as we have seen already, the knives are out!
The Triennial Review is essential as it will provide the industry the opportunity to introduce more fun and innovation for players – a must if we are to address and then hopefully reverse the sad decline many operators have experienced during the last decade or so. As an industry, we are already introducing a level of social responsibility that should allay many of the (unjust) fears that the Gambling Commission has levelled at the sector.
But on the other side of that coin we must be given some freedom and encouragement to develop new games with perhaps longer play time and perhaps yes also higher stakes and prizes for some games.
The FOBT issue has been getting in the way of a sensible discussion for far too long, muddying the water and spreading reputational damage in the eyes of the public across the whole industry. But don’t forget whilst FOBTs have £100 maximum stake, the largest stake on any of our machines is just £2.00. That is why the stake and prize level for FOBTs must also be addressed as part of the Triennial Review.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has a responsibility for the whole industry and it cannot continue to shirk that responsibility. The announcement for the Review must be soon and must be far reaching. We cannot wait forever and as an industry, we shouldn’t be shoved into a corner being ignored and playing second fiddle to other government business.