It’s 2019 everyone! There was positive progression in 2018 as everyone caught up with the digital rollout at last.

However, it feels like the complexities of the disingenuous Brexit arguments, the infighting and the self-centred approach by politicians of all colours and the pervading feeling of distrust in the population have all started to penetrate the pub gaming sector.

Without doubt we will see further development in pub gaming machines to move the digital offer and aesthetic another notch forward and more games to go along with it. All positive stuff for now!

The development of the cashless offer becomes ever more important as cash is withdrawn quickly from circulation and the surprising, new collaboration between Gamestec and Regal to develop a joint solution, alongside Playgo is as interesting as it is unnecessary. Surely, one solution for the pub industry, owned by the Retailers is the optimal solution. One which the UK player can identify with in any UK pub, managed, tenanted or free; used by any incumbent operator, and a single administrative process, signed off by BACTA and the pub trade bodies. Fragmentation is not what pubs need. Only a strong, identifiable, single pub gaming market place will optimise income for all.

This is of course set against a background of opportunity for pubs as the complexion and appearance of the gaming high street will change with the advent of the £2 stake on FOBT’s in April. What an opportune time to be in the pub supply chain or a pub player! There’s going to be opportunities to share in some of the displaced stake, so let’s keep the offer simple and move to manage game content on a pub by pub and piece of carpet basis and move away from compendia and fixed monthly updates.

We also need to understand digital machines better when cashboxes are lower; World Cup; hot weather; winter. By the nature of their game mix digital machines can be less profitable and a poorer playing experience when VTP drops. Managing the game mix better and more individually will mitigate the issue to some extent.

Failed Social Responsibility obligations have hit the press today. Pubs are not immune, and you can that trust our competitors are poised to sing from the rafters on any failed test purchase. For me, collaboration is key here. The trade bodies need to act in unison to develop one white label policy; one implementation process; one certification and one training method. Everyone can put their own logo on it, but an industry standard is sorely needed, not a race to the line by an operator or single retailer so that the compliance box box can be ticked. It is far more serious than that. It needs to be embedded in everything that we do.

There’s more to achieve in the next 24 months window! Self-collection; refilling; the all-purpose pub gaming terminal (not just an AWP); a single, reliable and secure network for the industry; new back office systems for content management and game deployment; content sharing; cash in ticket out; and most important of all – unity through open collaboration without which these goals will just feel like Brexit and we all know the uncertainty and potential damage that brings!

Unlike Brexit, this is perhaps one utopian view that is both practicable and deliverable and more importantly can be optimal for everyone. Happy New Year!