Fruit machines were once a given in British pubs and bars. Enter any self-respecting watering hole and there would be the gentle sounds of a brightly flashing fruity bleating away in the corner. However, times are a-changing, and it seems as though this mainstay of British pubs and bars is on its way out.
The Decline of Pub Fruit Machines
A report from auditing firm CLMS found that takings from fruit machines in pubs fell by an estimated £600 million in the decade from 2007. That equates to an average weekly decrease in income of 25%.
For any landlord or landlady looking to ensure that their bar returns as much profit as possible, the case for including a fruit machine is far shakier than once it was. The space taken up by an asset that is so rapidly declining in profitability could be used for plenty of other things, after all.
Why Is Fruit Machine Income Falling in Pubs and Bars?
Against this backdrop of declining income from bar-based fruit machines over the past decade, the UK’s gambling industry as a whole is going from strength to strength. After the UK Gambling Act 2005 came into force in 2007, the industry’s revenue stood at £8.36 billion. The latest report from the Gambling Commission shows a total gross gambling yield of £14.5 billion for the October 2017 to September 2018 period.
Gambling in general then, is thriving, so why are pub fruit machines struggling? One reason is the changing nature of the way that we gamble. Like everything else these days, there’s an app for that. Or more accurately, dozens of apps for that. If someone wants to gamble during a few quiet minutes while having a drink, all they need do is whip out their phone.
In addition, while a pub fruit machine offers a single game, online betting sites put a whole host of choices at gamblers’ fingertips. Whether they want to play Deal or No Deal and see if they can beat the banker, or enjoy a few spins on the Banker’s Riches Slot, all they need is in the palm of their hand. Doing so also fits with our transition to a cashless society – phones don’t require you to feed coins or notes into them in order to play.
Another reason for the declining interest in pub and bar fruit machines is the more exciting alternatives that are available in licensed betting offices. With higher value jackpots, betting shops’ fixed odds betting terminals simply have more appeal than pubs’ ‘amusement with prize’ machines.
The Way Forward
There’s also the fact that consumers’ expectations have shifted. The British bar scene has evolved hugely over the past decade. With everything from Japanese-style lounges to Instagram-worthy cocktail bars pushing new entertainment boundaries and competing for customers’ attention, the traditional pub fruit machine often simply doesn’t fit. So, while it’s unlikely that such a stalwart of the bar scene will be lost entirely, the traditional pub fruit machine has certainly got a difficult journey ahead.