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Update from ICE: challenges and opportunities for the gaming machine sector
- AuthorStephen McGinley
At last week’s ICE Totally Gaming trade event for the gambling industry, the Society for the Study of Gambling hosted a presentation by John White. John is CEO of BACTA, the principal trade association for the amusement and gaming machine industry in the UK.
The industry’s members manufacture, supply or operate over 300,000 amusement and gaming machines to around 1,500 arcades. The sector contributes around £2 billion to the UK economy each year and, directly or indirectly, employs more than 33,000 people.
John spoke about some of the opportunities and challenges facing the sector, and the changes since he was deputy CEO of BACTA at the end of the 1990s. The overwhelming difference was the prevalence of digital technology, but other changes included the growth of foreign ownership, more intense competition and, of course, the Gambling Act 2005. The resilience of the gaming machine sector however continued.
Some of the current challenges include:
- To address social responsibility issues – this has to be top of the agenda. John saw it as a great opportunity to build trust: with the regulator and the government, with the public, and with stakeholders.
- To increase public participation. About a third of the population has played at least once in the last 12 months, with only 1-2% playing at least once a week; a further third has played in the past but not in the last year - so there’s a lot of potential business to go for.
- To manage the competition from online gaming and from machines at the bookies. Retail customers are increasingly sophisticated and expect to access their entertainment, whether this is gaming, films or music, whenever and wherever they want. The next triennial review of stakes and prizes should take place later this year, and he expected this to ease relations with the bookies.
Investment will be the key to success – in new machines and products which can deliver personalised on-demand content, in improved premises and service levels, in education and training on social responsibility, and in an effective marketing strategy to position the sector as part of the leisure industry and to broaden its appeal to lapsed players. In a recent PWC survey of how the industry was perceived, the overwhelming response was as “FUN”, which is a great platform to build on!