Bacta drops BP-PA for PI following casino conflict

The British Amusement and Catering Trade Association (Bacta) has hired Politics International (PI) to boost lobbying efforts surrounding the Gambling Bill, having parted company with Bell Pottinger Public Affairs after just seven months.

According to Bacta, which represents the UK slot-machine manufacturing and distribution industries, the relationship with BP-PA ended due to ‘strategic differences’ and a perceived conflict of interest – the agency also represents US casino company Ameristar Casinos.

The agency switch also follows the departure of Bacta group chief executive Roger Hayes after less than six months in the role. He has been replaced with Keith Smith.

Smith said: ‘We weren’t happy with BP-PA’s involvement with some of the larger gambling interests in the US.’

Bacta argues that the Gambling Bill would put constraints on its members and reduce the availability of slot machines, while providing opportunities for non-UK firms.

Smith said: ‘[BP-PA] believed that with the Government having such a huge majority, [our objections to the bill] would just make life more difficult for us because we would be seen as naughty boys.’

He added: ‘We thought it was better to fight our own corner.’ The Politics International team is led by MD

Andrew Dunlop, who reports to Smith and Bacta president Tim Batstone.

The Gambling Bill is currently at committee stage. Politics International’s brief includes suggesting amendments to Liberal Democrat and Conservative committee members.

BP-PA managing director Peter Bingle said: ‘After the departure of Roger Hayes there was a discussion about future strategy and direction; it was agreed that it was best for us to part company. This was done amicably.’

Bingle added that BP-PA’s involvement with Ameristar Casinos was known to Bacta from the outset.

At a recent Bacta convention, gambling minister Lord Macintosh was presented with a teddy bear to highlight an aspect of the bill that would reduce the value of toys won on kids’ slot games.

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