Managing Your Machines
Some landlords are offering pubs the right to go “free of tie” on machines and you should explore this option (the trade off may be an increased pub rent).
Ensure your machines are turned on during trading hours
If they break down call your machine operator immediately and make a note of when you called. (A broken machine is lost profit for you). If the machine is out of action for a day then, at least, claim back the rent for that day. If the machine cannot be repaired that day, demand a replacement as soon as possible and continue to refuse to pay the rent on it until it is replaced.
Make sure you keep the hoppers full by regularly refilling them. Empty machines don’t earn you money as many customers prefer to feed in bank notes as opposed to bags of pound coins and will often stop playing if the machine refuses to accept notes whilst the hoppers refill from players’ stakes.
If a machine isn’t popular or is over-complicated customers will not play it and you will run the risk of “shortfall”. “Shortfall” is when the monies in the machine, when it is emptied, are not enough to pay the rent and gaming permits. You will be charged for this shortfall. I have a hard a fast rule for dealing with this: if a machine shortfalls for two consecutive weeks I demand that is replaced and refuse to pay rent for any time after that if it is not replaced.
If a machine position consistently returns shortfalls then you must consider resiting the machine from that position or removing the machine position permanently. Don’t forget that some machine positions are seasonal (for instance in the last pub I ran we had a small “Snug Bar” and the fruit machine would suffer terribly over the summer, but show a fair income for the rest of the year). If you have a seasonal position then don’t be afraid to tell your operator to remove it during the low season and replace it for the high season.
Top Tip – if you are called by your machine operator to say there will be a machine change and they are proposing removing a high-earning machine – REFUSE. You should dictate when a machine is not performing well enough to justify its position in your pub not the operator or your landlord.
Skills With Prizes Machines (SWP)
An SWP is a skill game that offers players a prize, such as quiz machines and machines are multi-game terminals, providing a different experience to gambling machines and still offering significant jackpots. They make a fun addition for your pub and are a great way to start introducing machines if you have none. You might consider an SWP if you attract groups or are on a circuit and want to encourage people to stay in your pub for longer.
Make sure that you always have access to the latest models, including terminals that download games from the internet. A phone line is required for download games and online tournament games, however, the supplier should pick up the cost.
New rules for SWPs with the introduction of Machine Games Duty will come into force on February 1st 2013, for more advice see the separate article by clicking here.
Top tip for SWP machines is to used marked coins (as you might for your pool table) to allow free play to customers on quiet nights as this might mean the difference between them staying and going.
MY TOP TIP FOR ALL MACHINES THAT PAY OUT A JACKPOT IS: DO NOT ALLOW STAFF TO PLAY THESE MACHINES WHILST THEY ARE WORKING OR AT THE END OF THE NIGHT. (Although fruit machines are truly random in how they pay out and are notoriously difficult to beat these days nothing will annoy your customers more than the sight of staff playing and winning after or during trading hours when they have just put their last pound coin in and walked away from a potential win.)