The most significant change to British gambling laws in recent years was the 2005 Gaming Act. While the act had wide-reaching effects that struck at all areas of gambling in the UK, one of its goals was to control the use of so-called “amusement arcades”, which are small-scale gambling halls filled with a variety of gaming machines. Specifically, the act reduced the amount players could spend on amusements from £2 to £1, and put limits on the number of machines each arcade could offer.
The effects of this are now being seen, as many arcades in the UK find themselves unable to stay afloat. Recent increases in licensing costs and council fees are also digging deeper into profits. In Southend especially, the seafront arcades that have been a regular attraction for decades are beginning to disappear.
One arcade owner, Mr Rawlinson of Chalkwell Esplanade, is getting tired of fighting, and is waiting for an opportunity to sell his business.
“In all, it now costs £200,000 a year just to open the doors, up from £10,000 a year before,” says Mr Rawlinson. “The arcade has to be operated in different sections now and you need a licence for each section. The £1 rule means it takes longer to hit a jackpot, so people can’t be bothered. They just go home and play bingo online.”
Competition from online bingo and other online gambling sites in the UK is certainly a strong factor. The growth of the country’s internet gambling sector has been exponential in recent years. But even locally-operated internet gambling sites are having trouble keeping up with ever-increasing licensing fees and taxes.
In fact, many internet bookmakers that used to be headquartered in the UK have picked up and left. They continue to offer internet betting in the United Kingdom, but they now do so from tax havens abroad.