Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Further supplementary memorandum submitted by BACTA

  1.  In your evidence you told the Committee that only 25 of your 690 members currently contributed to the voluntary industry charitable trust—but that you were holding a meeting that evening to discuss which was the best way to raise funding. Can you confirm the outcome of that meeting, and whether more of your members have agreed to contribute to the trust?

  Firstly it should be noted that BACTA, on behalf of all its members, has already made contributions to the establishment of the Trust.

  BACTA's Divisional Chairmen met on the 11 June to discuss the methodology of fund raising for the Gambling Industry Charitable Trust. The meeting took account, inter alia, of the siting of gaming machines, recognising that many machines are sited in locations where they are ancillary to the locations' main activity, which may be another form of gambling (as in a casino or a betting office) or non-gambling (as in a pub or social club). The widespread location of machines is unique and may complicate the method by which the fund raising is achieved. It is essential that any scheme implemented ensures a fair balance between BACTA and other industry associations whose members are significant owners and operators of machines.

  BACTA's National Council have approved a per machine-based levy which will ensure that BACTA members contribute to the Trust. The Association's National Council will be requested to approve a recommendation that it should be a condition of BACTA membership that members make contributions to the Trust. BACTA will be responsible for the administration of the scheme in order to meet the appropriate funding required.

  BACTA believes it would be worth exploring the idea that membership of the Association should be a condition of having a licence or permit to operate machines.

  2.  Is there a temptation for your members to not contribute at all until they are forced to by the Government a couple of years down the line?

  BACTA members have a good track record of supporting charitable trusts and BACTA is proposing that contributing to the trust is made a condition of membership.

  3.  In your evidence you stated that one of the reasons why the number of calls concerning machines to the Gamcare helpline was so great was because BACTA members are conscientious in advertising the helpline number. Is it not more likely that the main reason is because machines have been shown to be one of the most addictive forms of gambling? Whatever the reason, shouldn't the fact that machines are the cause of majority of calls to Gamcare suggest that BACTA members should be paying more towards an industry trust?

  There is no conclusive evidence supporting the view that fruit machines are necessarily among the most addictive forms of gambling. The 2000 Gambling Prevalence study shows at table 3.7 that fruit machines are only played by 14 per cent of those who gamble, compared with 65 per cent for the National Lottery and 22 per cent for scratchcards. BACTA would refer the committee to table 6.1a of the same study, which indicates problem gambling prevalence by gambling activity and which shows fruit machines to be at the lower end of the scale. The promotion of the counselling services of Gamcare, including advertising the help line number, evidences the commitment to social responsibility by BACTA members. It is BACTA's view that firm conclusions should not be drawn until such time as all gambling outlets (including those that sell National Lottery tickets and scratchcards) promote similar extensive Gamcare advertising. The Gamcare 2001 Report indicates that the most significant primary cause of problem gambling at 50 per cent of the total is off and on course betting. BACTA would consider a link between size of contribution to the industry trust and the proportion of problem gambling caused by different types of gambling, provided this was properly evidenced and researched across the whole industry.

  4.  In your evidence to the Committee, you said that you were not the experts in problem gambling, and that one of the problems with children and gambling is that not enough research has been done to know the full facts. In your written evidence you claim that there is no evidence that children are harmed by AWP machines, and yet call for further research into the behavioral tendencies of children. Are AWP machines really safe for children, or is there simply a lack of research into this area?

  The Report of the Gambling Review Body admitted that there was a lack of proper research concerning children and gambling, yet called for extensive changes to the AWP regime that would have adversely affected seaside businesses. BACTA's position has always been that any changes should be made only on proper evidence to justify them.

  BACTA supports the need for research, not because it believes there is a problem, but because research will prove that there is no need or justification for change. In his evidence, Professor Collins supported the view that AWPs are safe for children, pointing out that "children have been gambling for a very long time at seaside resorts, yet the prevalence study shows that there is actually a rather low number of problem gamblers in the UK, compared with other countries where children are not allowed to gamble. This is supported by Paul Bellringer's evidence that "I think the existing regulations have been one of the factors on why the prevalence of problem gambling in this country has been quite low. I totally agree that the great majority of gamblers, even young gamblers or adult gamblers, keep it under control and enjoy it as part of a leisure activity".

  Furthermore Home Office Research Study 101 (1988) into young people and gambling showed there was no direct link between the playing of machines and delinquency and that there was little evidence of dependency.

  5.  How does BACTA counter the argument that AWPs look and play the same as other categories of gaming machines, and that the distinction made by the Government between AWPs and other machines is an artificial one? The Methodist Church claims that a child can spend 6 in 10 minutes on an AWP machine. Does BACTA consider that a child will not find a 5 prize an attractive enough inducement to play on the machine at length?

  BACTA believes that the Government has firmly drawn a line between gambling and amusement by defining the parameters for AWPs as the proposed Category D machines. However, BACTA believes that machines like cranes and novelties paying out only non-monetary prizes (cuddly toys or tickets) are distinguishable from reel based machines and there is no justification for reducing their existing levels of 30 pence stake and 8 prize.

  For the record, average play duration is likely to be considerably longer than what is claimed by the Methodist Church. BACTA's view is that AWPs are played for amusement and to while away time, not because of the prospect of winning a trivial prize of 5. This applies to all age groups. Conversely an adult playing a 25 (Category C) machine will be having fun, but will also be indulging in gambling ie the prize is the main attraction for play. The Government shares this view.

  6.  What does BACTA anticipate the Government guidelines will be to BACTA members seeking to prevent children from accessing gaming machines in licensed premises, without actual physical barriers? What advice would BACTA give to the Government and Gambling Commission on drawing up such guidelines?

  Machines should only be located in the bar area(s) and not in rooms or areas designated suitable for the issue of children's certificates. Machines should be positioned within sight of bar staff and display clear signage and notices stating the law (banning under-18s from play). Both pubs and clubs are environments where other age-restricted products have been well controlled for many years and comprehensive staff training, adequate signage and awareness will ensure that playing gaming machines is properly controlled, just like buying cigarettes and alcohol. Penalties should be the same as those for supplying alcohol to under-18s. Guidelines should be drawn up in consultation between the shadow Gambling Commission, BACTA and retailers associations like the BBPA.

  7.  Does BACTA consider that a local authority is best placed to decide what type of business is appropriate in their area? If "grandfather rights" are not created for pubs and clubs, does BACTA think that local authorities will be able to cope with the thousands of applications likely to be generated by the re-categorizing of machines?

  On the face of it local authorities are the best bodies to decide what is best for their area, but their decisions must be made only within firm Guidelines set by the Gambling Commission, to ensure that there is national consistency and standards are kept up.

  Over many years, BACTA members have had experience of local authorities administering gaming machine licensing. There are marked differences between them. Some have blanket bans of differing types; some have dedicated licensing officers who are knowledgeable and interested in their jobs, and deal with matters speedily and efficiently; others have downgraded the licensing function until, in some cases, it is no more than an administrative matter dealt with as quickly as purchasing a packet of crisps from a shop. In some cases there can be little or no knowledge or expertise shown, and sometimes no enquiries are made to see whether the applicant is suitable to have a licence, or whether the application should be granted. There is much inconsistency in procedure and the way applications are dealt with and some local authorities are very slow in dealing with applications.

  For example: in one Local Authority area, a very knowledgeable and sensible licensing officer was replaced on his retirement by a young, inexperienced clerical assistant who in six months had granted applications for machines in a series of highly inappropriate situations.

  It is estimated that in excess of 11,000 premises already have permits for more than two machines granted by the liquor licensing justices. The licensees are likely to apply at once for a new local authority permit and the cost to the local authorities in staffing and money will be very great. As the applicant will already have had to have passed the scrutiny of the licensing justices to have a permit for the machines, it is hard to see what is the necessity or justification for the local authority to repeat the process. Therefore if "grandfather rights" are not granted, a huge and unnecessary burden will be created for local authorities. Some local authorities will cope better than others, but it is likely to be a great strain for all of them.

  8.  BISL have given evidence to the Committee that their Scottish members have encountered anomalies in obtaining licences from Scottish local authorities, have BACTA members experienced any similar problems?

  The law in Scotland relating to who may grant permits for all cash machines is anomalous, and has been given different meanings by different authorities. This has led to numerous inconsistencies over the positioning and numbers of machines permitted and the fees charged. BACTA has been in discussions with officials of the Scotland Office about it and the anomaly has been recognised. Consultations between the Scotland Office and Scottish Local Authorities with a view to rectifying the law are nearing completion.

  There are also inconsistencies apart from those created by the aforementioned anomaly. For example, in Glasgow, bingo halls are allowed 37 machines, whereas in Aberdeen they are allowed many more.

  9.  You told Mr Fabricant that gaming machines displayed the odds of winning on their face. As I understand the situation, this is not in fact the case and what is displayed is an estimated percentage payout—quite a different concept. I would be grateful if you would submit a corrective footnote or supplementary memorandum on this point in addition to any other amendments you may wish to offer once you have received the draft transcript of the session.

  BACTA did not intend to mislead the committee and apologise for any misunderstanding that may have been caused.

  Existing games show the payout percentage, but generally do not show odds for either the overall game or individual features—there is no requirement to do so either under the Gaming Act or associated guidelines agreed with the Gaming Board. These guidelines, which have evolved over the years, are considered by both parties to adequately inform and protect the player.

26 June 2002


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