The Gaming Machines Review published by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport welcomed the progress made by casino operators in promoting responsible gambling – yet rejected every one of the sector’s proposals for modest, sensible reform of the industry. This is a missed opportunity, which will prevent operators from modernising their venues, thwarting their attempts to innovate and preventing their customers from enjoying the same experience they routinely find when they visit casinos abroad.
The National Casino Forum’s proposals are intended to level the playing field between 1968 Act converted casinos and 2005 Act small casinos, setting a 3:1 machines to tables ratio, and to increase the maximum number of machines in 2005 Act large casinos to 500. These modest proposals would bring £100m Gross Value Added to the UK economy, creating at least 1,000 jobs, and remove some of the unintended consequences of the 2005 Act, which is no longer fit for purpose.
Operators also want to allow customers to access their remote accounts from tablets at a casino – hardly a radical proposal when they can already do so on their smartphones – and increase the prize value of Progressive Linked Jackpots to £100,000. The casino sector was expecting the previous 10:1 ratio for the stake cash deposits and transfers to be restored as this had been left out when the previous take and prize had been implemented. None of these proposals have been accepted and nor was our suggestion to consider creating a B1 sub-category for high-end casinos, where players expect stakes commensurate with their wealth profile.
Despite recognising that the casino sector has pioneered responsible gambling through its Playing Safe programme, including the ongoing Focal Research project into player behaviour, the DCMS justifies its intransigent stance by claiming there is insufficient evidence to prove these measures will protect players. However, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the government is unwilling to reform the sector, fearing political fall-out from the row over Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – only around 180 of which are located in casinos – rather than considering the merits of the casino sector’s case. It has long been accepted that casinos are at the top of the regulatory pyramid, with high staffing levels and strong interaction with customers. They are the most appropriate places for machine gambling and we will continue to make the case for modernisation so operators can offer customers the casino experience they deserve.
Tracy Damestani, CEO, National Casino Forum