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Hunt for buyer to save Great Yarmouth arcades

PUBLISHED: 17:56 22 October 2010

A ROW of prominent seafront Great Yarmouth amusement arcades has gone into administration following a fall in trade – re-opening the debate about the negative impact of changes to the gambling legislation.

The Golden Nugget, Flamingo and Circus Circus on the town’s seafront closed last week with the loss of 28 jobs after the arcades’ owner the Thurston Group went into administration.

A buyer is being sought for all three neighbouring arcades for £2m to save the brightly illuminated arcades opposite the Marina Centre.

However, administrators FRP Advisory LLP will consider offers for single units. The amusements will remain closed this winter while the administrators seek a buyer. If the right purchaser is not found, the arcades will re-open for the summer when they will be sold as a going concern.

The closures, on October 10, have also resulted in 28 staff members, including seasonal and part-time staff being made redundant.

Toys and gaming equipment will be sold with the arcades, which measure 17,500sq ft in total.

One silver lining is that the administrators have received a number of offers from interested parties.

Philip Watkins, a partner at FRP Advisory LLP, said: “The arcades have been placed into administration following a fall in trading. In our recent experience, a number of businesses in this sector have been affected by the Gaming Act (2007), the smoking ban and the rise in popularity of home internet gaming.”

He added: “The arcades are a part of Great Yarmouth’s seaside heritage and we are hopeful of concluding a sale in the near future.”

Borough councillor Graham Plant, the cabinet member for regeneration and tourism, believed new gambling legislation introduced by the government in 2007 had had a negative effect on the town’s arcades.

One key issue was the stipulation the stake on £500 jackpot machines should be reduced from £2 to £1 which arcade owners feared would make the machines far less popular by reducing the frequency of payout.

At the time the legislation was introduced, the then Yarmouth MP Tony Wright and John Thurston, director of the Thurston Group of Companies, called for the government to reverse the legislation, or risk driving arcades out of business with the loss of hundreds of jobs.

Mr Plant said: “I just think it is a shame that the lobbying that they have brought in on new legislation has fallen on deaf ears and we are not seeing the results of it. It is sad, but hopefully they will find another buyer.”

The British Amusement Catering Trade Association (BACTA), which represents the gambling industry, has also been campaigning for the government to reverse the legislation.

BACTA spokesman Dave Chambers said in the last 18 months 1,300 jobs had gone at amusement arcades across the country. He added as most arcades employed between five and 10 people, many would have closed.

He believed the gambling legislation had been a key factor in the closures, but was optimistic the new coalition government could make positive changes after BACTA representatives met government representatives earlier this year.

The only possible cloud on the horizon, he said could be an increase in VAT from 17.5pc to 20pc as arcade owners could not charge the additional 2.5pc to customers due to the fixed price of slot machines.

“The industry as a whole has faced a pretty tough time over the last couple of years and you can probably trace it back to the Gambling Act.

“The change in stake was one issue and seaside arcades were pretty badly affected despite the staycation phenomenon,” Mr Chambers said

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