Bacta: “The changes proposed in the White Paper will provide opportunities for our members to grow their businesses”

Bacta went under several changes in 2023. Among them, in September, the UK gaming and amusement trade body appointed industry veteran John Bollom as National President of the association.

In a special interview with Yogonet, Bollom details the changes that have been proposed in the UK government’s white paper and discusses the opportunities the gambling reform will provide to its members, and what to expect from the implementation of these proposals. 

Moreover, Bollom also offers insights on Bacta’s roadmap for 2024, detailing the trade body’s plans for the continued support of the UK industry.

Based on the feedback you’ve received from the members that form Bacta, and the association’s work with regulators and authorities, what is your assessment of the closing year?

2023 has been an important year not least because the UK Government, after much delay, published its proposals to reform Britain’s gambling landscape. These proposals, which enjoy widespread support across the political divide, will, when implemented, make a very significant contribution to the growth of the sector.  

Having worked so hard to get the proposals we wanted into the government’s white paper, it was good to start work on helping its thinking on how they would be implemented.

Bacta also succeeded in reforming its governance structure which will make it a leaner, more agile, and more effective campaigning force for its members active across all of the land-based sectors that it represents.
One of the most discussed issues in the UK gambling industry this year was the reforms outlined in the white paper, as the government advances with consultations and seeks to revamp regulations. 

How did Bacta assist the amusement and gaming machine industry during the year in understanding these changes? Which opportunities do you see for the land-based industry in these proposals?

As the author of most of the changes advanced by the government for the low-stake gaming and amusement sector, it has been a comprehensive and detailed exercise engaging with members and helping them understand some of the details.  

We use a variety of in-house and external channels to keep members up to speed complemented by numerous face-to-face meetings. The organization is ultra-responsive to the needs of members and every member knows that they can contact us for information at any time if they need help or confirmation of rules, regulations, or the very latest developments. 

The changes that have been proposed in the white paper will most certainly provide opportunities to be competitive and therefore opportunities for members to grow their businesses.  

For example, changes to the 80/20 machine ratio will provide greater choice for players and cut down on unnecessary costs. Furthermore, the use of cashless technologies on gaming machines will at last bring the sector into the 21st century. These changes are due to come into effect next summer. Longer term changes proposed, such as allowing new types of machines, and the ability to pre-test new initiatives, will also drive innovation and nurture growth.
Where will Bacta’s focus be in 2024, and how will the association support the gambling industry and its members in their endeavors next year?

Getting the white paper proposals over the line will be the key challenge for Bacta in a year which virtually every political commentator believes is very likely to see a change of government. Whilst Bacta enjoys cross-party support, politics in every country is notoriously fickle: there is a danger that any new government may change course or have different priorities. 

At November’s Bacta Annual Convention the Minister for Gambling, the Rt Hon Stuart Andrew MP spoke about the White Paper timetable and he confirmed that he had not encountered any political opposition to the proposals about the land-based sector. 

I think there’s a growing recognition of the contributions our sector makes right across the board in terms of investing in the high street, providing the income to sustain visitor attractions, particularly at the seaside and supporting extended local, regional and national supply chains. 

It’s always useful when engaging with politicians to be able to reflect the personality of the industry rather than simply reference statistics – impressive as they are! EAG Expo, the Bacta-owned amusements, low-stake gaming, and bingo exhibition which takes place across 16th – 18th January at ExCeL London provides the first opportunity of 2024 to do that and I am looking forward to hosting senior Labour Party politician Lord McNicol of West Kilbride who has accepted an invitation to officially open EAG. 

Iain McNicol, who served as General Secretary of the Labour Party from 2011 to 2018 is the current Labour Spokesperson for Business and Trade and I will be taking the opportunity to explain all the positive aspects of our industry, meet with Bacta members and to dispel any myths. 2024 promises to be another dynamic and demanding but hopefully rewarding year for Bacta, its members and the land-based industry at large.