Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-153)
PENELOPE, VISCOUNTESS COBHAM AND MR ROY RAMM
TUESDAY 11 JUNE 2002
140. Your response recognises the problem, I am not sure that it takes my question much further forward. There is just one final point I want to make. Mrs Simmonds suggested that if the industry saw some progress from Government on the timetable then there might be more people willing to put their hands in their pockets. I am not sure I like the idea of cash for favours, it may be one to avoid. Is that a view that you would concur with?
(Lady Cobham) For sure because it would encourage everybody to do their very best and to recognise that if the Government is moving quickly we must move quickly too. I hoped I answered your question by saying I believe that the right thing is that the industry should voluntarily do it with the backstop that if you cannot then there should be a statutory levy and the Minister has made that quite clear.
Chairman: We have got six minutes left and I am going to divide it equally between two colleagues.
141. You say the industry grappled with it, I would say it only grappled with it when it had to, when it faced criticism. I would also say that £770,000 out of the sort of figure that my colleague mentioned is still a tiny amount, it is nowhere near the three million identified. That is the gambling that is going on at the moment. If it was deregulated and expanded there would be surely a greater need and, therefore, you are going to have to do something that is going to really push those figures up fast because at the moment they are not going to come anywhere near what is required. How are you going to do that other than by a levy?
(Lady Cobham) The three million was identified for when we got to the period of deregulation.
142. So there is not a need for three million this year or next year, it is only when we get to deregulation.
(Lady Cobham) What I am quoting from is Budd and "Safe Bet" who have suggested that three million will be needed then. As you heard GamCare, for example, had a budget of 400,000 last year.
143. No, they did not. They said that they received £311,000, that they had a budget that they met with 400,000 but actually there is a much greater need that is not being met. That is what they have contained themselves in which was not met by the industry fund's grant to them.
(Lady Cobham) We will not debate it further. I am very much in favour of GamCare and Gordon House and other charities getting appropriate levels of funding. Indeed, the President of GamCare suggested that what might be a sensible way forward is a contract so that GamCare would provide certain services in exchange for the Trust giving money to cover those services. I think that is an eminently sensible way forward myself. I think that £800,000 or so raised in a very short space of time, which is not to say nothing was given before, a good deal of money has been given over the years both by the associations and by the independent companies, I think a third of the way to three million is not a bad start and, as has been suggested, as the Government moves forward I will do my very best to ensure that that money increases appropriately.
144. Forgive my ignorance but could you tell me what the cap is on stakes and payouts both on the tables and on the gaming machines in casinos?
(Mr Ramm) In casinos the cap on the slot machines is 50 pence and the current top price is £2,000 which interestingly at the moment has to be paid in coin and weighs 18 kilos.
145. For two grand you would pay a stake of 50 pence.
(Mr Ramm) Yes. Currently there is no cap on the amount of money that can be staked on the table or the prize that can be won by the odds. The only thing that really governs a casino is the fact that it has to put in place a gaming reserve to ensure that it can meet the highest possible bet that is paid out, if I can put it as simply as that.
146. What is the highest that has ever been paid out on the table?
(Mr Ramm) I guess if someone places a maximum bet on roulette in a single bet, close on £800,000 on one spin of the wheel.
147. So what do you want to see coming out of this? Presumably you want to see that £2,000 increased dramatically. I was referring earlier to machines that pay out one million pounds in other parts of the world, is that what you want to see here?
(Mr Ramm) Let us go back to slot machines because we must not confuse the two. As far as slot machines are concerned we would like to see the brake taken off the 50p and the brake taken off the upper limit. If one looks at linked Bingo jackpots, people think of Bingo as a kind of mumsy thing that people play but the linked jackpot in Bingo is now half a million pounds. We would like casinos to offer similar prizes.
148. On slot machines?
(Mr Ramm) Yes.
149. What about the ones that are linked across, I understand across the world, where they pay out more, well in excess of one million?
(Mr Ramm) They are not actually linked across the world. I think linking from one jurisdiction to another creates lots of problems.
150. It would be within one country?
(Mr Ramm) It would be within a country, yes.
151. So is that what you would like to offer?
(Mr Ramm) Yes, we would very much like to offer linked jackpot machines.
152. That would then be what kind of payout?
(Mr Ramm) It is hard to say really. If you look at some of the linked jackpot machines in Las Vegas they do pay several million dollars and it would not be inconceivable to see linked jackpot machines gradually perhaps moving in that direction, but this is not something that we would perceive happening overnight.
153. Except the Lottery.
(Mr Ramm) I am not sure it would actually.
(Lady Cobham) What we really want is evolution, not revolution. We do recognise that that brings with it lots of responsibilities which the industry does take very seriously.
Chairman: You sound very New Labour. I would like to thank both Members of the Committee and witnesses for their co-operation, we have had an extremely wide-ranging morning. Thank you.