Budget proposals should have addressed Machine Games Duty

In every budget there are winners and losers but once again the gaming entertainment sector has been left rueing another missed opportunity

Sascha Blodau, General Manager of MERKUR UK, believes that the budget proposals outlined by Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt in the House of Commons (15th March) will go some way in addressing general concerns facing the business community but has ignored a key item on the industry’s shopping list – a reduction in Machine Games Duty or MGD.
One of five senior industry leaders to be interviewed by trade paper Coinslot, Sascha provided a succinct analysis of the Chancellor’s financial statement highlighting both the positives and what he believes represent missed opportunities. Describing what he felt constituted a reasonable job in difficult circumstances he highlighted two economic challenges, namely the cost of living crisis and shortages in the labour market. He said: “Our businesses rely on people having sufficient levels of disposable income and the measures to freeze fuel duty and the extension of the energy price guarantee will help in this respect.”
He added: “In common with all businesses, recruitment remains a major issue and providing access to 30-hours a week of free childcare, even though the plan will be rolled-out from 2024, will enable more parents to return to work.”
MERKUR UK has a significant pub business in the form of Regal Gaming Technologies and the announcement that the tax charged on draught beer and cider in pubs will be up to 11p lower than the duty in supermarkets was also welcomed. “Pubs are an important part of the economic and social landscape and for too long have faced unfair competition from supermarkets which are able to use alcohol as a loss-leader. Anything to help our pub customers has to be a good thing” he confirmed.
As a major investor in the UK, MERKUR welcomed the projected return to economic growth of 1.8 percent but also cast doubt on whether inflation would drop to 2.9 percent from a high of 10.1 percent as predicted by the Office for Budget Responsibility.
The main causes for concern relate to the decision to plough ahead with the increase in Corporation Tax and the failure to address Machine Games Duty (MGD). He stated: “Ours is the only sector of the economy which by law is unable to raise its prices (machine stakes) and share increased costs with our customers”: adding “a cut in Machine Games Duty would have provided some assistance and we will continue to support the lobbying activities of trade bodies bacta and the Gambling Business Group to help achieve this objective.”