The impact of COVID-19 on gambling review

It goes without saying that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on in-person gambling – in fact the Gambling Commission has stopped collecting statistics from licensed betting operators (LBOs) due to the tighter restrictions imposed in November 2020.

At the end of January 2021, the GC published its latest assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on gambling in the UK, covering the period from March to November and looking at both real-world and online gambling.

Some of the headline figures from the latest update include:

  • A month-on-month increase of 3% in active online gambling accounts
  • A month-on-month increase of 4% in total online bets placed
  • A 4% increase in online slots bets to over 5.2 billion
  • A 3% increase in gross gambling yield from online slots to £177 million
  • A record high number of active online slots accounts (2.8 million) during the pandemic

The average online slots session now lasts 22 minutes, an increase of one minute over the previous month, while 8% of sessions – 2.2 million in November – last over an hour.

Cause for concern?

Despite the increase in longer gambling sessions and across-the-board increases in active accounts and betting activity, the GC reports no immediate need for concern about an increase in problem gambling.

“The consumer research data continues to show that across the population as a whole, there is no evidence of a significant or sustained increase in gambling activity in the COVID-19 period,” it said.

Consumer data from the Gambling Commission shows about one in eight people (13%) have gambled more since the COVID-19 pandemic began, yet 27% have gambled less and the remaining 60% have gambled about the same.

For real-world venue operators, including pubs and clubs that provide gaming machines to patrons, this is a reassuring sign of a stable market demand waiting to return to bricks-and-mortar premises.

Get ready to reopen

The future roadmap is still not set in stone, and likely depends on the balance between COVID-19 vaccinations and new variants of Coronavirus over the course of 2021.

However, we would urge all hospitality operators, pubs, clubs and other venues to get ready to reopen, and welcome all enquiries about new gaming machines or delayed maintenance and upgrades to your existing fruit machines.

Remember too that other significant market trends – such as the move to polymer banknotes and 12-sided £1 coins – still need attention if your machines have not been updated to prevent the use of expired currency.

The shutdown has caused significant challenges across all sectors, but this is the time to take whatever actions are necessary to get back to business as soon as you’re given permission to open up.

Slot machine and gaming trends to watch out for in 2021

All indications are that the current Coronavirus vaccination efforts will allow 2021 to become the year of the grand reopening, and for hospitality operators it’s not a moment too soon.

Venue managers will be looking to attract as much business as possible – within any COVID-secure restrictions, of course – and the gaming machine sector is here to support that ambition.

Despite the lockdowns of the past 12 months, it doesn’t mean there are no new developments in slot machines and gaming in general, so what might this year bring?

Cashless coin-op machines

We’re likely to continue to move towards coin-op machines that don’t require coins, and slot machines with no slots, as cashless gaming machines become more commonplace.

The Coronavirus pandemic has made all kinds of cashless payments the first choice, as handling physical money represents an avoidable risk of transmission.

But it’s also a matter of convenience. In the States, tapping a prepaid card on a designated part of the machine is a familiar way to pay for arcade machines and fruit machines.

With the move towards cashless payments propelled even faster forward by COVID-19, this could be the year for UK fruit machines to follow suit.

Touchscreen gaming machines

The pandemic is not necessarily bad news for touchscreen gaming machines, which are more hygienic than you might imagine.

More and more pub entertainment machines are touchscreen, including quiz machines, pub jukeboxes and a growing number of fruit machines too.

Touchscreens are smooth and easy to clean, plus they mean there is often only a single point of physical contact with the machine – give the screen a quick wipe with an appropriate surface cleaner and it’s COVID-safe once again.

Quiz machines and digital jukeboxes are already mostly touchscreen, but with more video fruit machines appearing in pubs in recent years, 2021 might prove to be the pivot point when mechanical buttons become a thing of the past.

COVID-themed fruit machines

Finally, will 2021 be the year for COVID-themed fruit machines to hit the market, or is it still too soon?

Slot machine manufacturers are notoriously unafraid to come up with games based around the big news stories – and there’s no bigger story than Coronavirus.

This probably won’t happen while the virus is still a significant threat, but you can bet that once the first round of vaccinations is complete, Coronavirus fruit machines will hit the market.

It’s all part of the British sense of humour and finding the bright side on the darkest days – will you be installing a COVID-19 slot machine in the months to come?

For more information about our own fruit machines, call Manco Automatics today on  0161 870 7777.

Top trends for hospitality businesses in 2021

After a uniquely challenging 12 months, we all hope that the top trend for hospitality businesses in 2021 will be a return to normality, as the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines allows social distancing restrictions to be relaxed.

But what other related and non-related trends can we also expect to encounter as the year progresses? Here’s our pick of five top trends to look out for in hospitality in 2021.

Entertaining everyone

At Manco, we know the value of entertainment including pub jukeboxes, pool tables, quiz machines and fruit machines, but in 2021 this will be magnified like never before.

The promise of a return to socialising outside of our own homes will see many more people making good use of their local pub, restaurant or social club.

Installing as many forms of on-site entertainment as possible will help you to cater to a broad range of desires and demographics, so you can welcome this tidal wave of revellers back to your premises as soon as it is safe to do so.

Paper to plastic

It’s likely that paper £20 notes would have been withdrawn from circulation were it not for the pandemic.

The polymer £20 note launched in February 2020 and the Bank of England will give at least six months’ warning before its paper predecessor stops being legal tender.

But with the pandemic putting contactless card payments much higher on the agenda, it’s likely that in 2021, payments will trend from paper to plastic one way or the other.

Food and drink

Eat Out to Help Out was a brief but welcome break from the social distancing restrictions in the summer of 2020, but other than that, many Brits have had little opportunity to go out for food and drink over the past year or more.

Food was already important to many hospitality businesses, even traditionally drinks-focused venues like pubs, and as we move through 2021 and beyond, providing a good menu of food and drink will be an important way for many hospitality businesses to win back custom.

Brexit break-up

The UK’s divorce from the European Union is bound to have an effect, whether it proves disruptive to supply chains or a more subtle influence over the course of the year.

Some hospitality operators may choose to embrace Brexit, by listing more British brands and locally produced goods on their menus.

Others may choose a different route, focusing more on the continued availability of continental European brands to reassure customers that despite Brexit, their favourite beer will still be there when they want it.

A new normal?

It’s hard to know exactly what the post-pandemic period will look like, and one ‘trend’ for this year is its unpredictability.

By preparing for every eventuality, with a carefully curated food and drink menu, card payment capabilities, and broad entertainment such as pub pool tables, quiz machines, fruit machines and jukeboxes, you can make sure your venue is the first choice for new customers.

As 2021 draws to a close and we put COVID-19 behind us for good, this gives you the best chance to retain as many of those customers as you can, for an even more prosperous 2022 and beyond.

We wish our customers good health and if you’re preparing your venue for entertainment, call Manco Automatics on 0161 870 7777 and we’ll be happy to help.

Fruit machines and slot machines: What’s the difference?

In the UK, the terms ‘fruit machines’ and ‘slot machines’ are often used interchangeably. But there are some differences between the two.

Here are some of the main ways fruit machines and slot machines are different from each other, and why their names can also be misleading at times.

Slot machines

First of all, let’s think about slot machines. By definition, these are coin-operated machines and the name comes from the slot into which coins are dropped to buy a game.

By this definition, slot machines don’t just include fruit machines and quiz machines, but also everything from snack vending machines to coin-op kiddie rides outside your local supermarket.

It’s also worth noting that modern slot machines might not have a slot at all, as an increasing number have a note feeder for paper/polymer banknotes or a contactless card reader for cashless payments.

Fruit machines

Fruit machines are a particular subcategory of slot machines and include the familiar pub fruit machines most people have seen many times before.

The defining characteristic here is the system of symbols used on a pub fruit machine’s reels, which usually includes cherries, oranges, watermelons and plums, plus a few non-fruit images like bells and lucky 7s.

But it’s not necessary for any fruit to be used. You might see slot machines with cartoon characters, cops and robbers or even your favourite soap stars’ faces in place of the plums and cherries.

Slot machines vs. fruit machines

A more detailed definition that highlights the difference between slot machines and fruit machines is as follows:

  • Slot machines are usually very simple and may have a single push-button operation, similar to that of early one-man bandits.
  • Fruit machines are usually more complicated, with extra options like hold, nudge, gamble and feature boards.

This is a rule of thumb, and there are plenty of exceptions. But it’s useful to keep it in mind when trying to tell the difference between slot machines and fruit machines.

Legal definition of slot machines and fruit machines

In terms of UK law, there’s little difference between ‘slot machines’ and ‘fruit machines’. The Gambling Commission uses both terms to refer to Category A Gaming Machines:

“Most gaming machines are of the reel-based type, also known as fruit, slot, or jackpot machines.”

If you’re thinking of installing pub fruit machines or other slot machines on your premises and you’d like to know more about the rules that apply to different types of slot machines, contact Manco today on 0161 870 7777 and we’ll be happy to help.

Get ready for the New Year with Manco Automatics

This year has been probably the most difficult ever for many businesses in the hospitality sector, but the New Year holds the promise of a brighter future as the COVID-19 vaccines reach an ever-increasing proportion of the UK and global population.

As we look ahead to 2021, it’s time to be both optimistic and realistic, and to prepare to make the most of new opportunities that emerge over the coming 12 months.

It’s still hard to know exactly what will happen, but in a year’s time the hospitality sector should be in a much stronger position – so let’s all do the groundwork now to help make sure that happens.

Stay safe and clean

The pandemic has heightened customer awareness of cleanliness and hygiene, so make these a hallmark of your operations for the future.

You can carry out simple tasks like cleaning quiz machine screens and giving pub fruit machines a wipe down regularly – even during opening hours so punters can see your staff doing it.

Most coin-op machines are built of materials that are easy to clean, especially if you do so regularly, so this can become a real selling point for the foreseeable future.

Add more entertainment

For a lot of people, the overriding emotion of 2020 has been boredom. Extraverts have faced being furloughed from work and banned from seeing family and friends.

Once restrictions are lifted, we’re likely to see a lot more people taking advantage of local amenities and looking for ways to stay entertained while they’re out for the evening.

Add as many options as possible to your premises. Pub fruit machines, quiz machines and pool tables are the obvious, but take a look at our instant-win pull tab machines too.

Put your jukebox to work

A modern digital pub jukebox does a lot, lot more than just play music – it can be the heart of your weekly entertainment schedule.

Download the latest chart releases, complete with music videos, and link to speakers and screens around your premises so punters can enjoy their chosen songs no matter where they are sat.

Your jukebox and screens can also display adverts for any upcoming sports fixtures – another thing many people have missed during lockdown – to draw in more of a crowd for live events.

Finally, a digital pub jukebox can play automated pub quizzes and bingo, so you can schedule even more entertainment throughout the week.

Let’s make 2021 count

We’ve all got a lot of living to do, to catch up on missed opportunities during this difficult year, so let’s make 2021 the best it can be, whatever happens.

Until then, we all at Manco Automatics would like to wish our customers a very merry Christmas, health and prosperity for the New Year.

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