Dransfield Novelty Company Limited was founded by Harry Dransfield, back in the 1940s. After coming into possession of a ‘one-armed bandit’, the original lever-operated fruit machine, he quickly saw the popularity of the machine and seized the opportunity to source more machines to supply to the licensed trade.
Harry supplied gaming machines to pubs and clubs around the Leeds and Newcastle areas, becoming a licensed gaming machine supplier when the 1968 Gaming Act was introduced. When Harry's son, Jack, joined the business in 1970s, Dransfields steadily expanded to become one of the largest machine suppliers in the North of England.
When Harry passed away in 1981, Jack Dransfield became Managing Director. Jack continued to grow the business, creating a large pub operation which was subsequently sold to Bass Leisure in the late 1980s. Jack Dransfield retired from the business following the sale and the mantle was passed to Robert Dransfield, the current Chairman of Dransfields.
The nudge feature, which is still an integral part of most modern gaming machines was developed and patented by Dransfields many years ago and demonstrates its long established pedigree within the industry.
Carfield Engineers Ltd was established by Albert Carter and Harry Dransfield in the early 1960s. When Trevor Carter, Albert’s son, was watching an early machine being played, the reels displayed two jackpot bars with the third jackpot bar just above the winning position on the third reel. The player said: ”If only we had some way of moving the third bar down onto the winline“. This was the spark that led to the development of the ‘nudge’ and was incorporated in the very popular ‘Club Nudger’.
At that time, the feature would allow only one nudge on one reel to advance downwards to enhance the chances of a winning combination. Later, game enhancement was increased dramatically by allowing multiple nudges on all reels.
Two machines, ‘Feature Win’ and ‘Reel Chance’, were developed by Jim Trueman of Dransfields using the new multi-nudge technology between 1973 and 1974 and another machine, ‘Count Down’ was developed by Carfields.
The machines were an instant success with time penalties on nudging greatly increasing the excitement of the machines.
Both Carfields and Dransfields continued to design new games and the nudge feature was further enhanced with the advent of electronic technology, allowing reels to be nudged up as well as down. Around 70 machines were developed by Dransfields between 1973 and 1994 and the nudge feature was adopted by most other manufacturers. It still remains one of the most popular features of the modern gaming machine.
Robert Dransfield then chose to focus the business on the thriving club operation and to establish the Company as the strongest club operator in the North of England, necessitating a move into larger premises at Mill Street in Leeds where Dransfields still has its Head Office today.
Chris Haley joined the Company in 1996 and together with Robert set out on a modernisation and expansion programme with the aim of becoming the number one national supplier of gaming machines to clubs.
Recognising that many of the original 1968 Act operators would be looking towards retirement and seeking an exit from the business, Dransfields sought to acquire strong local operating businesses throughout the country. This led to more than forty acquisitions and in all cases the original staff of the businesses were retained, capitalising on their close and hard-earned customer relationships and local knowledge. To service the new geographical areas Dransfields opened regional depots, strengthening local ties with local clubs and providing responsive service support over a large national geographical area.
By 2000, having successfully established the business as the main UK supplier to clubs, it was decided that the time was right to re-enter the pub supply side of the business, taking advantage of the national infrastructure that had been established to service the national club industry. Today, Dransfields supplies machines to regional breweries, pub operating companies, managed and tenanted estates and free trade outlets throughout the country.
Throughout this period, Dransfields has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of customers to protect their entitlement to machines under the 2005 Gaming Act.
In 2009, Chris Haley mounted a legal challenge to HMRC to protect clubs facing closure due to retrospective taxation demands. Chris refers to this as his B3A Battle, and he was driven by a view that HMRC had seriously misinterpreted the law around machine taxation. From start to finish, the legal challenge took almost five years but resulted in a victory for clubs of which Chris is justifiably very proud.
In 2011, Robert Dransfield took on the role of Chairman and Chris Haley became Managing Director of Dransfields. The business has strengthened its management team having recruited some of the best people in the industry.
Today, Dransfields is well established as the number one supplier of gaming and amusement equipment to clubs and continues to grow the pub and licensed trade supply side of the business supplying to some of the UK's major pub brands, challenging mediocrity in machine supply.
In 2019, Dransfields acquired Gameco Holdings Limited, owners of Reflex Gaming. The transaction represents the coming together of the UK’s largest independent machine operator and the UK’s largest independent gaming machine manufacturer. Dransfields and Reflex Gaming are fiercely independent and proud to be British-owned and the combined businesses creates a new and credible alternative for retailers and a new focus on the UK pub industry.
The advent of the digital age has also impacted on the industry and machine technology. Dransfields now supplies a huge range of digital gaming machines includng the stunning 3-screen, state-of-the-art digital GamePro multi-game cabinet available for all venues, as well as digital quiz machines and digital jukeboxes giving customers more choice through access to a huge choice of games and millions of music tracks.
Robert Dransfield, Chairman, Dransfields