bacta’s engagement with the political sphere continued this week as the UK amusements industry trade body gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee.
The association’s CEO, John White, addressed MPs on the committee – chaired by Conservative Party MP Harriett Baldwin – about banking challenges currently facing the amusement sector.
Amusement arcade members have become increasingly concerned about ‘being unfairly treated’ by the banking sector, such as having services unexpectedly withdrawn often ‘at short notice’.
White remarked: “We want to confirm that a number of our members have had their banking facilities suddenly and unexpectedly removed.
“The reasons’ given are that the banks consider gambling, even low stake low prize activities such as ours, as a money laundering risk – which is nothing short of preposterous.
“Furthermore, we have been told that banks consider gambling to pose a reputational risk which, they say, offends their Corporate Social Responsibility policies.”
Although bacta did not insinuate this, it could be possible that banks are considering their ‘reputation’ when closing down gambling-related bank accounts.
The sector faced criticism from some political circles after it emerged that Nigel Farage’s account with Natwest was closed due to the institution wanting to distance itself from his controversial political views.
White continued: “Irrespective of anyone’s moral perspective on gambling, there should be no circumstances other than illegality, for a bank not to offer banking services to any of our members.”
This is the second time this summer that bacta has made its case before parliament regarding challenges faced by the amusements industry.
In the first of White’s appearances, he highlighted the interests of the amusement industry amid the implementation of the Gambling Act review White Paper.
However, in the months since, banking and payments have become more of a focal point for the industry. Before his parliament appearance, White spoke to SBC Media’s Payment Expert about the cash vs cashless debate and its implications for the amusements sector.
White added: “It is important to note that this is a highly regulated industry. All operators have to be licensed in some form by the Gambling Commission and venues must be licensed.
“The conditions under which operators conduct their business are set down in law or via the Gambling Commission’s Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP).
“Furthermore bacta members must adhere to the association’s Code of Conduct and Social Responsibility Charter which goes beyond the law and LCCP in promoting high operating standards.”
Should amusement arcades continue to face hurdles regarding their banking services, the industry could face severe consequences, White further informed the Committee.
“The time and cost of finding another bank is significant,” he said. “The debt position of customers can be severely impacted and lending facilities cannot simply be replicated.
“It appears that a moral or political judgement is being made about a business, with little if any real transparency or opportunity to challenge a decision. Small to medium-sized businesses are simply not resourced to take on a big bank.”