Campaign: Amending the Gambling Bill Client: British Casino Association PR team: M:Communications supporting public affairs agencies DJH Associates, Quintus, Fellows Associates Timescale: January-April 2005 Budget: £600,000
On 14 December 2004, the Government announced its final plans for a radical shake-up of Britain's gambling laws. But the Gambling Bill excluded the 137 existing casino licenceholders from the proposed deregulated regime being put forward for super-casinos.
With the Government also pledging major 'regeneration' through licence awards, the British Casino Association and its members feared the worst.
With large foreign operators promising big capital investments to secure the attractive new licences, the BCA launched its defensive campaign.
M: Communications was brought in to mastermind a media relations strategy that would target policy makers within Whitehall and Parliament.
To provoke the Government into renewed debate by highlighting the unfairness of the proposed law. To even up the playing field by lifting the regulations for existing casinos on the number of slot machines allowed and easing advertising restrictions.
Strategy and Plan
The campaign's underlying approach was to provide a strong media platform for opposition parties to champion the BCA's cause - ensuring that its members, rather than Las Vegas-style operators from abroad, were chosen to lead the reform of UK gambling.
The BCA also wanted to publicly oppose the £1m pay-out machines (proposed exclusively for super-casinos) that were raising major concerns among church groups and other non-government organisations.
M: Communications opened with an exclusive interview between a leading BCA member and BBC business editor Jeff Randall, which was quickly followed up by the Today programme, for which BCA chairman Penny Cobham was questioned.
Adverts for the national press highlighting the Government's admission that the bill was an experiment, and a live spot on the BBC's Week in Politics programme, were secured.
The TV debate was deemed such a success for the BCA that M: Communications used some of the Government's responses in further national press ads to highlight what it saw as Labour's weakness on the issue.
Measurement and Evaluation
As well as appearing as adverts in The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph and the Evening Standard, the campaign was mentioned in 1,385 articles in the national press, 57 radio pieces and five national TV reports.
The Tories and Liberal Democrats publicly backed the BCA. The combined effort yielded significant Government concessions - for example securing a doubling of limited pay-out machines per existing casino.
With the election called for May, Labour reduced the proposed eight super-casinos to a single 'experimental' casino. The UK's quoted operators saw more than £100m added overnight to their combined share prices.
Financial Times leisure industries correspondant Matthew Garrahan says: 'With the US operators smarting at the latest policy change, there was good news for the UK's gaming groups.'