Slots In The Arm, Ailing Retail Vertical Given Major Debit Card Booster

The retail Slots sector, under growing pressure from its digital avatars, has been given a massive boost by a UK government proposal to lift the ban on using debit cards to pay for play.

Paying with credit cards to play slots and other gaming machines in the nation’s many, multi-thousand, casinos, gaming parlours, bingo halls and pubs, will still be outlawed.

But, under a new proposal posited by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which oversees Britain’s gambling industry, players will now be able to post payments of up to £100 (US$126.5), under chip-and-pin account verification.

Shares in the Rank Group, a major UK retail gambling operator, surged by six percent when the news was announced yesterday (Thursday).

And the UK gambling industry’s representative Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) welcomed the betting control volte-face.

“Much-needed reforms on cashless payments, gaming machine allocations [and allowing all casinos to offer sports betting] will strengthen the sector to better meet the needs and expectations of their customers,” affirmed Michael Dugher, CEO and Acting Chair of the BGC.

Arcade Fire

He continued: “Too many casinos have sadly closed in recent years as successive administrations failed to deliver the changes we needed to protect jobs and growth. They employ more than 10,000 people, contribute £300 million (US$379.54m) annually in tax and generate an estimated £800 million (US$1.01bn) a year to the UK economy.

Slots Are A Vital Pillar Of The UK Gambling Industry
“Casinos are a vital pillar of the UK’s leisure, hospitality and tourism sector and we welcome the Government’s consultation response which is positive progress on the modest, long-overdue but mission-critical modernisation reforms needed for the land-based casino sector to compete and thrive.”

Following yesterday’s announcement–which also proposed that retail casinos be allowed to offer sports betting–, Rank Group CEO John O’Reilly said: “Naturally we welcome this news. We are looking forward to improving the customer proposition in our venues.”

But the proposed, partial reversal of the digital payment card ban–initiated in 2007 as part of a gambling safeguarding drive–was opposed by a number of anti-betting activists, among them Matt Zarb-Cousin, Director of Clean Up Gambling. He warned: “Permitting debit cards on gaming machines presents significant risks.”

Future-proof

A recent NHS Health Survey for England, for example, estimates that some 0.4 percent of the country’s adult population are problem gamblers.

The proposed measures set out on Thursday are part of the drive to modernise Britain’s antiquated, pre-iGaming, 2005 Gambling Law.

Removal of the debit card ban would “strike an appropriate balance between regulation applicable to modern payment methods, consumer benefits and protection of the licensing objectives,” said Stuart Andrew, Minister for Sport, Gambling and Civil Society.

“Some sectors, particularly machines in pubs, are seeing business disappear because customers do not carry cash.

“We will help future-proof the industry by removing this prohibition subject to appropriate player protections being put in place.”

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