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THE BACTA CASE: SEEKING THE LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
BRITAIN'S street operators and arcade owners have faced up to their casino colleagues in the little matter of payout machines. They did it on the opening day of the premier European coin machine trade show in London--when both disciplines were showing their wares side-by-side at the neighbouring ATEI and ICE shows.
The shows opening down the road at Earls Court could not be further from the minds of each team as they stood side-by-side before a committee formed of both houses of Parliament, there to hear oral submissions in the "pre legislative scrutiny" of the Gambling Bill.
In the case of BACTA, President Tim Batstone was backed by his Chief Executive Phil Jarrold and what the association felt might be a trump card, the 11th hour production of an independent report by the Henley Centre on the possible impact of the Bill as it stands. From Henley, therefore, there was Ray Stone.
In his background description of the market, Stone reported a 1bn [pounds sterling] growth in gambling "spend" in 2003, up to 9.5bn [pounds sterling], accelerated by the growth of FOBTs and Internet gambling. By 2010, he said, with the new legislation, Henley anticipated another 1.1bn [pounds sterling] being added to that, mostly from casinos which he said would be funded by "cannibalism" from existing gambling and also by increases in general leisure spend.
He said that in the biggest losers would be bingo and the AWP business.
Questioned, Stone said that the emergence of casinos with unlimited numbers of slots with unlimited prizes would impact on the existing market sector. IT was Henley's view that the 60,000 pubs in the UK with AWPs would lose out, perhaps 1,000 pubs would close and the rest would just lose a percentage of their income.
BACTA had described the proposed regulatory regime as "an inordinate, unwarranted and costly bureaucracy". One of the committe members asked Tim Batstone to explain.
"I think the general point is that the current regime maintained by the Gaming Board has created a very well-regulated environment with one of the lowest levels of problem gambling in the world," said Batstone. "But there is fear among our members that the bill for the new regime, which is going to cost a lot more to run, is going to fall to a large degree on the existing industry for whom there is not a lot of benefit in this new Bill."
He felt that the "bureaucracy cost"--the new Gambling Commission--would rise by 200 or 300 per cent. Asked to express a view on the taxation regime and whether a gross profit tax on machines would be workable or a continuance of the current Amusement Machine Licence Duty is preferred, Batstone opted for the …