Gambling row - Wednesday 28th of May 2008

DESPERATE arcade owners in Burnham and Brean say new gaming laws are killing their trade and gambling with the future of both seaside towns.

The Weekly News has spoken to several seafront amusement arcade owners who have been forced to make costly changes to comply with the Gambling Act - with one losing out £100,000.

Some owners also claim tourists have stayed away since regulations - introduced to discourage reckless gambling - have forced them to remove their gaming machines and lower jackpots.

Burnham MP David Heathcoat-Amory has even called for a law change in parliament, saying the rules threaten the future of seaside tourism.

Louise Parkin, joint managing director of The Pavilion arcade in Burnham, said she has had to remove 52 of her 56 machines and has had to fork out £100,000 on changes to comply with the law - but takings have still fallen by 27%.

She added: "Now I need several different licences plus an operators licence, costing thousands of pounds.

"We have already cut down staff hours and we may have to cut down again. They have also had a cut in wages."

Louises father Harry Parkin, also joint managing director of The Pavilion, said a £35,000 machine called Elvis, with a £500 jackpot, had to have many of its features removed and reduced to a £35 jackpot - at the expense of £5,000.

Arthur Price, under manager at Sunspot Amusements, near Burnhams pier, said the laws had also hit his trade, while John Clarke said they have been "absolutely devastating" for his Stardust Amusement Arcade in Brean.

He said: "We have seen around a 30% drop in takings over the last ten months - families are not going in anymore.

"Its not just gambling it affects. It is bound to have an impact on tourism because seaside arcades are part of the seaside experience - and if they cant offer the services they had before then it is not going to be the same."

Mr Clarke said he feared for the future of his business and others along the Brean seafront.

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