How to improve the parlous state of British gambling ?

Suggestions on how to improve the parlous state of British gambling were given in the Times Online over the weekend by Praesepe and British Amusement Catering Trade Association exec, Nick Harding.

In his article, Harding points out that delays in government policy decisions are putting nearly 30 000 jobs in the British gambling industry in severe jeopardy, with an increasing number of businesses closing, particularly in the seaside arcade sector.

Referring to the Gambling Act of 2005, Harding claims that this has resulted in tougher regulation for land-based operators, "...yet none for the online casino operators that provide unregulated games for UK players." This has helped to distort the market, shifting the balance in favour of some sectors at the cost of others, he writes.

Harding claims that adding this to the economic stress, changes in consumer leisure patterns and a smoking ban, the [land] gambling industry has been "brought to its knees." He gives some figures to prove his point: income down by GBP 108 million a year, and seaside arcade revenues declining by 21 percent resulting in 136 closures since July 2007 and an estimated 850 jobs lost.

"Since 2005, when the Gambling Act was supposed to usher in a new era for our industry, manufacturing output in this sector has decreased by 55 percent and more than 25 percent of the manufacturing workforce have lost their jobs," he adds.

Harding has a simple solution that will not involve asking the government for a bailout. His suggestion is an adjustment to the maximum stake and prize limits on the most widely used machines to a maximum GBP 1 stake for a GBP 70 prize.

"If we can achieve this, without any political dithering, then I am certain there will be a significant effect on virtually every sector of this industry," he says.

Harding concludes: "Policymakers should be doing everything they can to ease the burden on the pay-to-play industry to secure jobs. What we are proposing provides an opportunity to stem the decline of seaside towns and prevent more businesses going to the wall. A failure to grasp this opportunity immediately would be a gross dereliction of duty."

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