Current machine categories
Under current gambling laws in Great Britain, gaming machines fall into one of four categories, A, B, C and D and arcades are able to install machines as follows:
- adult gaming centres - an unspecified number of Category B3/B4 machines but which must not exceed 20% of the total number of gaming machines on the premises and as many category C and D machines as they want. (Arcades that were in existence before 13 July 2011 can choose to offer a maximum of four Category B3/B4 machines - the previous limit - or 20% of the total gaming machines, whichever is the higher. They are entitled to this choice indefinitely. Arcades that gained their licence on or after 13 July 2011 but before 1 April 2014 could also make this choice, although since 1 April 2014 they're only entitled to 20% of the total number of gaming machines)
- licensed family entertainment centres - as many category C and D machines as they want, but the category C machines must be in an over-18 area
- unlicensed family entertainment centres - as many category D machines as they want
The maximum stakes and prizes for category B3, B4, C and D machines are:
- B3 - £2 stake, £500 prize
- B4 - £1 stake, £250 prize
- C - £1 stake, £100 prize
- D non-money prize (other than crane grab) - 30 pence stake, £8 prize
- D non-money prize (crane grab) - £1 stake, £50 prize
- D mixed prize of money and non-money (other than coin pusher) - 10 pence stake, £8 prize of which a maximum of £5 can be in cash
- D mixed prize of money and non-money (coin pusher/penny falls) - 20 pence stake, £20 prize of which a maximum of £10 can be in cash
The most recent regular review of stakes and prizes, published in 2018, recommended reducing the stake for Category B2 machines (casinos and betting shops only) from £100 to £2. This change took effect in April 2019. All other stakes and prizes remained the same after the review.
Old machine categories
Until 1 September 2007 when the Gambling Act 2005 came fully into effect, gaming machines were covered by the Gaming Act 1968. Three types of machine were allowed:
- jackpot machines - only allowed in casinos, bingo halls and clubs
- all cash Amusement-with-Prizes (AWP) machines - allowed in adult environments like arcades and pubs. Children and young people under 18 not allowed to play these machines
- coin or token AWPs - allowed in family arcades, played by any age group
Arcades didn't necessarily have to replace these old legacy machines when the new legislation came into force. If a legacy machine meets certain technical standards then it can remain in operation.
Gaming machines in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, the machine gaming regulatory regime is significantly different to the rest of the UK. Arcades can offer amusement with prizes (AWP) machines with a maximum stake of 30 pence and a maximum prize value of £8, or with a maximum stake of 30 pence and a maximum prize of £25. There are two types of amusement permits available - one that allows an arcade to offer both types of machine and one that allows an arcade to offer only the machines with the lower payout value. There is no restriction on the number of machines. Under 18s must be prevented from using higher value prize machines.
Amusement-only machines like pin-ball machines are not regulated by the Act. Skill with prizes (SWP) machines that have no gaming element and redemption machines where the prize given out is in relation to the skill of the player are also not covered by the Act.
You will probably also want to install a variety of other machines, particularly if you hope to attract families and children. These might include machines like juke boxes, air hockey or kiddie rides. These are not covered by gaming legislation although some - like kiddie rides - will need to be inspected annually under a health and safety scheme like the ADIPS (Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme).
BACTA requires members to abide by a Code of Practice - this gives clear guidance on where the different types of machine should be sited, who can access them and how the area should be supervised. They can also give you advice on the ADIPS which they administer. There's further guidance about the scheme on the BACTA website