This is a sponsored post from the Association of British Bookmakers. Greg Knight is Managing Director of Jenningsbet.
My family operate a retail bookmaking business which has been on Britain’s High Streets for 55 years. We are now in our fourth generation and have grown to be the biggest privately owned business in our sector. We employ nearly 500 staff. We generate millions in tax revenues every year and contribute to local economies by paying business rates in over 100 locations nationwide.
We are exactly what the Conservative Party is all about; enterprise, hard work and perseverance. We are a UK success story – and yet our very existence is in jeopardy.
About 12 years ago we introduced into our shops Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT’s).They are now responsible for about 55 per cent of our profits and offer a wide range of gambling products of which roulette is by far the biggest. Customers are restricted to a maximum stake of £50 unless they agree to open an account or engage in an interaction with staff in which case they can stake up to £100. The average spend per customer is around £7 per session. Each terminal offers customers the opportunity to set their own time or spend limit. It promotes safe gambling messages and our staff are well trained to spot signs of problem gambling.
Despite the fact that anyone can play the same games online unregulated and without any limit on stakes DCMS is being aggressively lobbied and pressurised into introducing a reduction in the amount customers can stake possibly down to a limit as low as £2 per spin and this pressure has been applied from some very dubious quarters.
An APPG Chaired by Carolyn Harris recently recommended a reduction to £2 which is tantamount to a ban. Whilst the Committee’s well-intentioned motive may be a reduction in problem gambling they are funded by those who stand to benefit commercially from a reduction on stakes on gaming machines in bookmakers; amongst others, the Hippodrome Casino, Bacta (the Amusement Arcade Trade Association) and J D Wetherspoons!
There is no evidence that removing one particular gambling product will help problem gamblers (between 0.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent of the population are considered problem gamblers – a figure which has remained consistent for decades) any more then taking one particular alcohol product off the shelves will help problem drinkers.
DCMS is currently undertaking a Triennial Review on stakes and prizes and it holds the very future of my business in its’ hands. I would implore that firstly the evidence is listened to, secondly to look hard at where the noise is being created and thirdly to actually question the consequences of any drastic changes – job losses, lost tax revenues and ironically not one problem gambler helped with their addiction.