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The future of amusement machines – a day at the Autumn Coin-op Show

On 06/11/17 by Philippa Borrowman (Policy and Information Officer)

The amusement machines industry is relatively new to me, apart from the familiar sight of a fruit machine in the corner of my local pub. However, a day at the Autumn Coin-Op Show demonstrated that the world of these machines is much larger than I had originally thought.

Statistics show that the number of Category C machines being sold has significantly fallen, with only 13,000 units being sold in 2015 in comparison to 46,000 in 2005. However, manufacturers are still developing ways in which their machines can appeal to a new demographic of pubgoers.

At the BBPA, along with developers of amusement machines, we know how important these machines can be for the income of pubs. Whilst profits, along with the number of amusement machines being sold, has fallen, the Coin-Op Show showed me the many ways in which the amusement machine industry is working towards creating new ways to appeal to the public.

One of the biggest obstacles for the sector has been the significant increase in contactless payments in pubs, with Barclaycard research suggesting that contactless payment in the pub and bar sector had risen by 92 per cent between September 2015 and January 2016. Currently tap and go payments are illegal to use on amusement machines. However, many companies discussed the use of tokens, whereby customers pay by card and receive pay-outs through tokens, which they can either exchange for money, or exchange for drinks and other products in the pub.

Speaking to manufacturers showed there are a number of technical advancements which are revolutionising this industry. Not only is the development of cashless machines vital in order to protect the trade, but the significant improvement of digital machines, as opposed to analogue machines such as the more traditional fruit machine, has helped to ‘future-proof’ the industry.

The ability to store multiple games on a digital machine at any given time is vital in order to give consumers a choice of game, and appeal to a broad demographic. In addition, manufacturers are able to access machines online, whether it be to update the software or fix any problems. Previously, faulty Category C machines would more often require repairs by a technician, which was both costly and time-consuming.

Some developers have taken things one step further. One company has developed a mobile app where they can track every machine they own in the country, and see statistics such as when it was last played, which games are most popular or repair any faults online via the software.

Whilst a number of large manufacturers are still producing the classic analogue machines, suggesting that these machines were still profitable, the large majority of developers at the show noted that a move towards digital amusement machines is vital in order to future-proof the industry.

In addition, they suggested that amusement machines were a vital part of the technology sector, through providing jobs to games developers, as well as continuously finding new ways to develop high-definition, state-of-the-art amusement machines.

Whilst the improvement in technology is vital to protect this industry, the BBPA has been campaigning on other key issues which can further protect the industry for the future. Amusement machines are a vital part of the pub sector, both for the profit of the pub itself, as well as providing jobs in the technology sector.

Through an increase in Category C stakes to £2, and a prize to £150, the BBPA believes that this will help to ‘future-proof’ the industry, whilst not impacting negatively on social responsibility or problem gambling.

However, after a long wait for the outcome of the government’s triennial consultation, we were disappointed to hear that the Government isn’t currently proposing to increase stakes and prizes in pub machines.

The BBPA will continue to campaign for an increase in stake and prize, and will respond to the Government’s latest consultation. We hope that with such an increase, the amusement industry can continue to provide an income vitally important to keep many pubs, particularly many community locals, viable.


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