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Amusement Arcades: Coastal Areas

Volume 485: debated on Monday 15 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what steps he is taking in response to recent job losses within the seaside arcade sector; and if he will make a statement; (241435)

(2) how many seaside arcades have closed since September 2007;

(3) what steps he is planning to take in response to the downturn in seaside arcades since the introduction of the Gambling Act on 1 September 2007;

(4) what recent assessment his Department has made of the impact of regulatory costs of the Gambling Act 2005 on seaside arcades.

We recognise that for a variety of reasons, seaside arcades are facing a challenging operating environment. The Gambling Commission has advised that whilst up to date figures on the number of arcade closures in seaside resorts are not available, it estimates that around 170 arcade premises in seaside or other locations have stopped trading since September 2007.

The Department has also received representations from the British Amusement and Catering Trade Association (BACTA) which suggest that an estimated 853 jobs in the wider arcade sector have been lost since July 2007.

That is why we brought forward the stakes and prize review for category C and D gaming machines—to assist family entertainment centres, pubs and machine manufacturers. We have taken account of the industry’s responses to our recent consultation which proposed increases in stakes and prize limits for certain categories of C and D machines and will shortly announce how we intend to proceed.

Increasing stakes and prizes is not the sole answer to the problems seaside attractions are currently facing—seaside resorts need to develop their own imaginative ideas to attract visitors. The Government can also play their part and are helping our seaside resorts, as we have shown through our £45 million Sea: Change regeneration programme.

We have made no assessment of the regulatory costs of the Gambling Act 2005 specifically in relation to seaside arcades. However, we estimate that, overall, the new regime has reduced total administrative burdens by around £57 million annually.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what factors underlay the decisions on the treatment of (a) bingo halls and (b) seaside arcades in respect of entitlement to Category B3 machines; (242400)

(2) what the evidential basis was for the decisions regarding the gaming relief provided for (a) the bingo sector and (b) seaside arcades; and if he will make a statement.

The Department received representations from a number of trade bodies, including the Bingo Association and the British Amusement and Catering Trade Association (BACTA), seeking changes to the regulatory regime for gaming machines established by the Gambling Act 2005 and implemented by secondary legislation from 1 September 2007.

I concluded that there was strong evidence that the economic situation facing the bingo industry is particularly acute with a significant number of club closures in recent months and years. I was also persuaded that a number of special circumstances apply to bingo, including the fact that there is often a high demand for machines during short periods of the day. That is why my Department consulted on a proposal to increase to eight the number of Category B3 gaming machines in bingo halls. The order to implement is subject to affirmative approval in both Houses.

The Government also received strong representations in respect of the challenging economic environment faced by seaside arcades. That is why we brought forward on an exceptional basis the stakes and prize review for Category C and D gaming machines—to assist family entertainment centres, pubs and machine manufacturers. We have taken account of the industry's responses to our recent consultation which proposed increases in stakes and prize limits for certain categories of C and D machines and will shortly announce how we intend to proceed.