The European Gaming and Amusement Federation, Euromat, says that it wants to put the street and arcade market for gaming front and centre of the discussion when it gathers at the Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam on May 28, for a conference which it promises will address the issues that are keeping the gaming machine sector “awake at night.”

Commenting on the upcoming event, secretary general of Euromat Kieran O’Keeffe said: “There is a real hunger from the land-based gaming sector for an industry event that focuses on them for a change and I’m not surprised. Never has it been more valuable for the private sector in gaming machines to think collectively about the challenges and opportunities that the sector faces, and Euromat is the natural facilitator for that.

“All those colleagues in the industry that join us on May 28 will get a chance to hear industry leaders, regulators and analysts debate the issues that will impact their business over the coming years. If you want to get ahead of the game then you have to be in Amsterdam in May.”

The Euromat Gaming Summit will also see a new president take the stage for the first time. Long-standing president Annette Kok will step down after seven years at the helm. According to her, serving as Euromat president has been “tough but rewarding and I think there are exciting times ahead for the sector.”

She added: “The last seven years have seen substantial change in the gaming market. The rapid growth of illegal online products fuelled by increased availability across multiple platforms has certainly been a disruptive force in the market and one that regulators have yet to tackle adequately.

“However, as an entrepreneur, I know that machine gaming is adapting and responding to changing customer preferences. Regulators are rightly worried about player protection and our sector is best in class in this respect: we’re highly regulated and this ensures that we offer consumers a safely controlled leisure experience that makes more than its fair contribution to government coffers through tax.”

Regulation will certainly be on the agenda in Amsterdam in May. The last 12 months have seen regulatory changes in several markets including Austria and Italy and discussions in many more, including the Netherlands where tax proposals that threaten to favour the online sector are at the centre of the debate.

The use of tax as a regulatory tool is a controversial but growing issue and the Euromat Summit will see the Dutch State Secretary for Security and Justice attempt to justify the Dutch government’s decision to apply a differential tax rate between online and land-based operators.

“This goes to the very heart of the challenge for governments,” said O’Keeffe. “They will claim that unfair treatment is the only way to bring illegal online operators into the legitimate market but in our experience companies that are prepared to operate illegally will always do so and in the meantime our members continue to get squeezed because they operate in plain sight. Governments need to consider this very carefully otherwise they risk choking a responsible land-based sector that employs and pays tax at a considerable scale while giving consumers an enjoyable leisure experience.” 

O’Keeffe believes not only that the industry should be concerned by these developments but that it must respond in a coordinated way.

“This approach to tax will arrive in other markets,” he said. “It’s a matter of when and not if, unless the industry can collaborate at a European level to resist these developments and make the case for a fair and balanced tax regime that does not discriminate.”

The calendar of annual gaming events has been sadly lacking a dedicated forum for the gaming machine sector so the Euromat Gaming Summit is shaping up to be a welcome addition. With regulation, tax, innovation and product development preoccupying operators and manufacturers there is no shortage of issues to discuss on the May 28.

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