This is a sponsored post by the Association of British Bookmakers.
Britain’s struggling High Streets will suffer if the Government imposes a draconian cut to stakes on gaming machines in betting shops.
Ministers are currently considering whether to reduce the maximum stakes on popular Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to as low as £2 – a figure which is disproportionate and a de-facto ban, and risks forcing more than 4,500 betting shops to close by 2020, according to modelling by leading independent auditors.
That would have a serious knock-on effect for neighbouring businesses as betting shop punters abandon the High Street.
Research by analysts ESA Retail found 89 per cent of bookmakers’ customers make linked trips to nearby shops, with more than half spending at least £10 at other retailers and 40 per cent in Scotland spending £20 in other retailers.
The research also suggested that vital income for local shopkeepers would dry up if bookmakers close – with a more than a third of punters saying they would visit the High Street less often if their betting shop shuts.
The ESA Retail report said: “Coupled with the finding that the majority of shoppers are making linked trips to other businesses when visiting the bookmakers, this provides strong evidence that the presence of bookmakers has a positive impact on the High Street in general”.
Local High Streets are already struggling as customers increasingly turn to online shopping. Latest figures from the British Retail Consortium show High Street footfall dropped by 4.6 per cent last year.
Malcolm George, Chief Executive of the Association of British Bookmakers, said: “Betting shops are an asset to British High Streets, attracting customers who visit neighbouring corner shops, pharmacies, opticians, banks and other local businesses.
“Cutting stakes on FOBTs to £2 would deal a devastating blow to High Streets by forcing more than 4,500 betting shops to close, denying other local shopkeepers customers and vital income.
“Many of the former betting shops will remain vacant, adding to the feeling of High Street decline and blighting local communities.
“Ministers can avoid these negative consequences for our High Streets by avoiding a drastic cut and working with bookies on a new package of responsible gambling measures.”
Cutting FOBT stakes to £2 will take a huge human toll as shops close. The independent analysis suggests nearly 22,000 people would lose their jobs from such sweeping closures.
In addition, the Treasury will lose out on more than £1 billion in taxes – denying public services like the NHS vital funds.
Horseracing and greyhound racing will also be denied hundreds of millions in funding, and the British Horseracing Authority has warned a £2 stake “would have unintended consequences to British racing and the wider rural economy”.