Supplementary memorandum from BACTA
BACTA were somewhat surprised by the remarks of the Committee concerning unaccompanied children allegedly frequenting amusement arcades. These children were said to be runaways and to be vulnerable to sexual predators. The Johnny Go Home TV programme of the 1970s was cited as evidence of this problem, as well as amusement arcades in King's Cross, which was described by the Committee as a notorious area for prostitution and sexual pick-ups. The vulnerability of children allegedly frequenting these inner city amusement arcades was clearly of great concern, as it should also be for BACTA, if it were true. Finally the Committee felt it was odd that the memoranda of the various witnesses concerned with problem gambling and young people did not refer to this alleged problem, which it felt was an issue about regulation of the actual venues as well as parental responsibility.
BACTA wishes to give further information to the Committee on these points as follows:
1. The vast majority of inland amusement arcades or licensed gaming centers, as they have been known for the last few years, operate a strict over-18s only admission policy in line with BACTA's Code of Practice. It is of course a statutory offence for an under-18 to enter such premises or designated areas of premises where there are S34(5(e)) machines. Much of the clientele of licensed gaming centers is middle-aged and female. Those few inland premises belonging to BACTA members that do admit children to their general amusement areas are also bound by the Code Of Practice, which clearly states that children will not be admitted to the premises during school hours. To help the committee, the relevant extracts from the BACTA Code of Practice are reproduced below.
In any premises or designated areas within which S34(5(e)) AWPs are located, a notice(s) will be displayed prominently at eye level at the entrance(s) stating that no person under the age of 18 will be permitted to enter the premises or designated area.
In any premises or parts of premises where S34(1) AWPs are situated, a notice will be displayed on the premises or parts of the premises stating that no school pupils under the age of 18 will be permitted access to the premises or parts of premises during school hours.
2. The citing of a TV programme from the 1970s as evidence of the situation in 2002 is regrettable. The truth is that the industry has made enormous strides to correct the unacceptable situation that did sometimes occur then. Paul Bellringer from GamCare alluded to the industry's efforts in his evidence. Furthermore none of the arcades around which the said TV programme was based have existed for many years. (Please see paragraph 3 for further information).
3. Using King's Cross as an example to apply to the whole industry is very unfair. Firstly no recognition was given to improvements in the King's Cross environment that have occurred in the last few years, which have been significant. Secondly to our knowledge, there is only one licensed gaming centre in the King's Cross area. This is owned and operated by a BACTA member and it operates a strict over-18s only admission policy. It is bound by the Code of Practice and is compliant with all statutes and guidelines.
It should also be noted that when the Johnny Go Home programme was made, there were a number of arcades of dubious reputation in the King's Cross area, which have long since closed down.
4. We wish to comment on the Committee's observation that it was odd that the memoranda of the various witnesses, concerned with problem gambling and young people, did not refer to this alleged problem, which it felt was an issue about regulation of the actual venues as well as parental responsibility. We would respectfully submit, that the reason why none of the memoranda referred to the alleged problem of unaccompanied children in cities and the vulnerability of children who go to amusement arcades to sexual predators, is because it does not exist in the way the Committee believes. No one is suggesting that there are not some young people who have a gambling problem or that a few may play low stake and prize machines in amusement arcades excessively. But to resurrect the images and problems of the 1970s, which have to a great extent disappeared both due to changes in the law and to BACTA's Code of Practice, and to apply them to the world of 2002 is unfair. It is not recognising that the situation has considerably changed or giving any credit for this.
26 June 2002