Gaming machines in venues outside casinos have global revenues of US$ 79 billion and account for 19% of global gambling revenues. But politicians and regulators in jurisdictions around the world are intent on curbing their use.
In the UK, of course, there was the recent decision to reduce the maximum stake on B2 machines in betting shops to just GB£ 2, a move that diminishes the machines’ appeal to players. Inevitably, the UK government’s decision was seized upon by politicians and campaigners in other jurisdictions.
In Australia, the third largest gaming machine market, Tim Costello, spokesman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, argued that the country should copy the UK’s move: “I welcome what the UK has done and think Australia should follow. If you ever ask the public, it is always over 70 per cent ‘we hate them [machines]’. So it is really politicians within the industry who are opposing what the public wants.”
The Australian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie explained, “The Federal Government has it within its power to legislate for AUS $1 maximum bets, as well as other harm minimisation measures like mandatory pre-commitment”.
Japan is the world’s largest gaming machine market, thanks to its vast Pachinko sector. But Japan’s relationship with these machines has long been an uneasy one, not least because Pachinko is not officially classed as gambling. Pachinko’s revenues are declining but scrutiny is increasing because of Japan’s decision to permit casinos.
Takashi Takai, who represents the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) in the Lower House, has questioned the suitability of the pachinko sector for involvement in the new casino market. Pachinko operators have expressed an interest in the new casino resorts, which is forcing Japan to assess the status of Pachinko.
Italy is the second largest gaming machine market in the world but there have been measures there that could restrict the sector, and the promise of more to come. A tax rate increase for machines came into effect in June 2017 and GBGC forecasts a GGY decline in line with the gradual decrease in the number of AWP machines in operation. The previous Italian government imposed a 35% decrease in the number of AWPs and VLTs in outlets.
Matters could get even worse for the sector under the new coalition government. The coalition agreement refers to an “elimination” of gaming machines and limitations on gambling with “repeated bets”.
Germany’s states have already introduced new legislation which imposes restrictions on the location of amusement arcades, the distances between arcades and the number of machines permitted per venue. In neighbouring Austria, the capital city Vienna banned slot machines as of 1 January 2015, except those in casinos.
Another European capital, Riga in Latvia, announced in May 2017 that it intends to close slot halls in the historic part of the city. There are 42 slot halls that are to be closed. The city council voted in September 2017 to close nine venues, while in October 2017 a further 33 venues were earmarked for closure.
Read more about the gaming machine sector in jurisdictions around the world in the latest edition of GBGC’s comprehensive Global Gambling Report.