Memorandum submitted by the British Resorts
The British Resorts Association is a recognised
Local Government based Association representing local government
sponsored tourism interest across much of the UK. While the membership
is mainly coastal it is by no means exclusively resort based.
We currently have 60 UK local authorities, 10 tourism board and
14 commercial organisations in membership. Background detail on
the membership and the work of the Association can be accessed
Given our remit and our membership base, we
have confined our comments to the major tourism issue for our
membership profile, and not to the much wider and more complex,
and often competing, issues for local authorities in general.
In terms of tourism we take the view that the
impacts and issues relate mainly to built resorts and, in particular,
to traditional coastal resort towns.
The role of the traditional family style arcade.
Love them or loathe them, the traditional family arcades continue
to fulfil a number of important roles within coastal resort towns
of all sizes. They:
provide all weather attractions open
to all age groups, very often over an extended working day, and,
often, outside the main tourist season.
they are very often the main providers
of important, but economically marginal, ancillary supporting
service, particularly in smaller resorts (toilets, snack bars,
beach toys and novelty retail etc).
provide a viable commercial purpose
for many commercially marginal buildings and structures, many
of which are of architectural or historical merit.
are clearly popular with the mass
provide significant direct employment
opportunities both in and out of season.
provide significant indirect employment
via arcade suppliers and support services.
as a consequence of the above they
play a much more significant role in the typical resort economy
than they might naturally be credited with.
The Budd report recommendation appeared to single
out the family style arcade for harsh treatment. Although Government
proposals have modified both the tone and nature of the Budd recommendations
relating to traditional seaside arcades there remains considerable
concern that the proposals will serve to starve the family arcade
of its traditional family business, resulting in either closure
or a move to adult only gaming. Neither route is palatable for
the operator and both would have very serious implications for
the nature and style of the resort product and ultimately for
the economy of the traditional seaside resort destination.
The need for major regeneration of seaside resorts
has at long last gained the profile it rightly deserves. Regeneration,
however, requires an economic viable catalyst to kick-start the
virtuous circle of wider regeneration. The liberalisation of casinos
is one such new economic opportunity, which would assist a number
of the resorts to achieve their plans for regeneration. We support
and would wish to encourage:
the development of one, possibly
two, major resort casino initiatives in existing major UK resort
towns. A town such as Blackpool already has the basic infrastructure,
and could easily absorb the development and use it to reinvigorate
much of their existing tourism product.
the development of smaller scale
casinos in those resort towns, which have an obvious market for,
but are currently not allowed to have, casinos. In particular
there are a number of resort towns with a significant tourist
and conference market which have had long standing aspirations
to include modest casino developments within their existing portfolio
of attractions. Eastbourne and Harrogate are good examples of
towns, which have such aspirations.
The nature and tone of the Budd report suggests
that there is a presumption that the use of arcades by under 18
year olds is unsustainable and that it should be ended in due
course after some further confirmatory research.
Government has rejected the presumption, but
are proposing to conduct further research and to act on it. We
have no objection to the proposed research, however it is essential
that this research is conducted fully and fairly. It must, for
example, look at all aspects of gaming and the real and relative
risk of the family style arcade in resorts as, say, compared to
National Lottery Advertising on national television or the acceptance
and promotion of horse racing and other betting based activity
as legitimate main stream sports.
Arcades and Youth Issues
While arcades can, on occasion, attract bored
and sometimes troublesome local youths if no alternative all weather
meeting places are provided, there is no compelling resort based
evidence to suggest that arcades adversely influence children's
social behaviour or indeed their long term attitudes to gaming.
We are aware of a significant number of major social and economic
issues within resort towns, the issue of arcades and their use
by children has never been registered as one of these concerns.
Stakes and Prizes
Our understanding is that Budd recommendations
61 and 63 combined serve to redefine most of the machines used
in traditional arcades into one category. They also then recommend
an indefinite freeze of maximum stakes at 10p and the prize at
£5. The Government accepts this recommendation but do agree
to review it in the light of their proposed research.
Changing the legislation so that the stakes
and prizes cannot be periodically reviewed is effectively to declare
that the family arcade that predominantly use this type of machine
have no long term future in their current form. Not having the
option to consider changing the level in light of longer term,
even possible shorter-term changes to coinage, currency values
and technology is senseless. It also seems to reinforce the underlying
message that it is pointless to consider longer term investment
in family style arcades.
Tokens, Tickets and Novelty Items
Budd recommendation 62 would have limited low
stake machines to cash only prizes, effectively banning the use
of tokens, redeemable tickets and novelty prizes. Government have
rejected this but in doing so have limited the maximum "value"
of the non cash prize to £5. Operators, not unreasonably,
argue that at £5 the prizes are unlikely to be attractive
and that as a result a whole class of machine will become redundant.
They also argue that they can not be replaced by a viable lower
stake lower prize alternative. We sympathise with the economic
pressure this may bring in the short term. We also accept that
there may be a reduction in the overall variety of machine and
types of games operated in the future. This loss of variety may
well reduce the broader appeal of the family style arcade, again
threatening their longer-term future.
Budd recommendation 64 suggested cranes should
be removed from the controls altogether. Government rejected the
proposal, presumably accepting that this would lead to proliferation.
Regrettably the consequence of this is that cranes will now be
caught up in the 10p stake £5 cash equivalent prize limitation.
Cranes are a good example of machines which largely function on
a higher stake and higher prize value, as highlighted in paragraph
3.6. While we support to retain cranes within the existing control
regimes we would again urge that the level of cash stakes and
non cash value prizes be reconsidered in the light of the reality
of operating non cash prize machines on a viable basis.
The Budd report excluded the prospect of Jackpot
machines being included within the designated adult areas of seaside
arcades. The Government appears to support this position. While
we would acknowledge that the White Paper makes significant concession
in other areas of seaside arcade operations, we would argue that
an absolute ban on Jackpot machines, regardless of circumstance
is unjustified. Some operators may be willing and able to provide
and operate secure manned adult only areas which are effectively
premises within premises. In these circumstances we can see no
valid reason why the adult area should not be treated in the same
manner as a High Street adult gaming arcade and be allowed to
operate the full range of gaming machines.
We congratulate Government for commissioning
this long overdue review. Despite our observations we believe
that the Budd Report's recommendations are largely sound and that
the Government's response has addressed many of the residual concerns
raised after the report's publication. All that we would now ask
is that the opportunities to aid resort regeneration through resort
casinos and casinos are maximised and the potential inadvertent
damage to the traditional seaside arcades are minimised.
2 May 2002