Stuart Andrew: land-based gambling reforms to “support the move towards a brighter future”

Andrew said he hoped reforms would be in place by summer 2024.
Andrew said he hoped reforms would be in place by summer 2024.

The UK government’s gambling minister spoke at the Bacta Annual Convention 2023.

UK.- Britain’s gambling minister, DCMS secretary Stuart Andrew, has forecast that the modernisation of land-based gambling will help ensure the sector’s future. Speaking at the Bacta Annual Convention 2023, he promised that the government recognised the economic contribution of the gaming arcade sector to the country and to local communities, high streets and coastal towns. 

The sector has been struggling as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, high inflation and the rise in energy prices. Andrew said: “I recognise the commercial challenges you are facing, and I believe that the modernising measures we are taking will help to support the move towards a brighter future. Many of you here today will be keen to understand the progress we have made on the land-based gambling proposals set out in that white paper.”

He highlighted the proposal to modify the current 80/20 ratio for lower-stake gaming machines to meet consumer demands and save on energy (Bacta wants a 50/50 ratio). However, he said that it was important to ensure a “genuine offer of lower-stake gambling opportunities in order to maintain a safe gambling environment”.

“We fully recognise that you believe that this current ratio does not allow you to meet customer demand, and that this has led to the maintenance of large numbers of machines, which are underused but energy-intensive,” Andrew said. “This situation is undesirable for both businesses and the consumer.”

Andrew also highlighted the proposed introduction of cashless payments for gaming machines and ending the prohibition on the direct use of debit cards. He said the government will create a “technical framework of minimum standards” for machines accepting direct cashless payments and recognised that the transition “won’t happen overnight”.

Lower gambling levy for land-based gambling

Andrew also noted that the government’s plan to introduce a mandatory levy on gambling to fund research and support recommends different rates for different sectors, with a lower 0.4 per cent fee proposed for land-based venues, compared to 1 per cent of gross gambling yield for online gambling.

He said: “We have proposed a levy rate of 0.1 per cent to be paid by land-based arcades, which is less than the rate proposed for online gambling operators, betting shops, and casinos. We believe that this is a proportionate approach and should not place an undue burden on the sector.”

Land-based gaming reforms will all need secondary legislation, which the government aims to implement for summer 2024. However, Andrew noted that the timeline depends on “parliamentary availability and procedures”.

Concluding his speech, Andrew said: “I hope that in my time as the minister I have shown that my door is open, and it will remain open as we continue to deliver what I hope will be the right policies for a sustainable future.”

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