New laws to end penny arcades?
NEW gambling laws could be the death knell for the traditional seaside "penny machine", it was claimed today.Funfair owners believe the new offence of permitting a child to gamble could outlaw even the simplest and cheapest machines – and bring to an end a harmless activity holidaymakers and daytrippers have enjoyed for generations.
NEW gambling laws could be the death knell for the traditional seaside "penny machine", it was claimed today.
Funfair owners believe the new offence of permitting a child to gamble could outlaw even the simplest and cheapest machines - and bring to an end a harmless activity holidaymakers and daytrippers have enjoyed for generations.
Charles Manning, owner of Felixstowe's amusement park, said the fear of arcades being forced to close was "very real indeed".
Fun machines such as the 2p cascade games, horse racing, and old-style fruit machines are all governed by the same gambling rules and licences even though the potential winnings are pennies not pounds.
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"It looks like we could lose all of them - they might as well close us up," said Mr Manning, whose family have run the Charles Manning's Amusement Park in Sea Road for more than half a century.
"We are being made the sacrificial goat on the altar of the big casino.
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"I can understand the government wanting to protect the under 18s but seaside arcades are family places where mum and dad bring the children on a trip and spend a few pennies - it's part of the pleasure of a visit to the seaside and not something they do every day.
"I don't think spending a few pennies in this way turns you into a hardened gambler. The machines are not the same at all.
"Around 22,000 people are employed in seaside arcades around the country and our professional association is very concerned about this."
The Gambling Bill - which will allow huge Las Vegas-style casinos to open in Britain - yesterday passed its second reading in the House of Commons by 286 votes to 212.
As well as allowing casinos with unlimited jackpots to open 24 hours a day, it proposes a radical shake-up of all gambling laws, including preventing youngsters from using gambling websites, setting up a commission to police the industry, and a new offence of permitting, inviting or causing a child to gamble.
Despite the concerns of church and community leaders, the government says the aim is to protect the "weak and vulnerable".
But much of the detail of the new laws, such as how they will affect arcades, will not be known until the committee stages later this month - when the nitty gritty will be thrashed out and new categories for prize machines decided.
The British Amusement Catering Trade Association (BACTA), which represents arcade owners, is seeking urgent meetings with ministers.
What do you think - should seaside arcades be allowed to stay? Do they encourage gambling and how should they be changed? Write to Your Letters, 30 Evening Star, Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk