Bookmakers’ relief as ministers regulate with a light touch

Bookmakers breathed a sigh of relief after new government regulations on gambling left largely untouched the way they currently operate.

There will also be new powers for councils to require bookmakers to make a planning application for any new betting shops on the high street, but with limited powers to turn them down, meaning that costly legal action could follow. There was nothing to address the existing “clusters” of bookmakers on many high streets. There may also be a 9pm watershed for gambling advertisements.

Shares in the big bookmakers rose strongly on the news. FOBTs are highly profitable and the industry had feared far greater restrictions. Labour said it would reduce stakes to £2 from £100 currently. Industry leaders painted a bleak picture of job cuts if they were more tightly regulated.

City analysts said the measures were “relatively benign” for the industry.

bingo2

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling called the measures “a missed opportunity” that would do little to protect problem gamblers or curb the number of betting shops on the high street.

“Increased interactions [with bookmakers’ staff] will not mean increased player protection, especially as staff often have their bonus pegged to their shop’s profits,” a spokeswoman said. Some betting shops linked pay directly to revenue from FOBTs, she added.

Ralph Topping, chief executive of William Hill, which announced 109 shop closures on Friday, said: “We recognise the need for government to respond to public concern on betting shops generally, and gaming machines in particular.”

The bookmaker Paddy Power said councils’ powers would favour the big players such as Ladbrokes and William Hill. It also complained that measures against FOBTs were rushed out before a major government-commissioned study into their effects on gambling habits. “The proposed planning changes are a fudge, not a fix, and pre-empt an evidence-based approach to addressing concerns about fixed-odds betting terminals,” said Andy McCue of Paddy Power.

Clive Efford, the shadow sports minister, said the proposals had not been thought through. “This debate is not over, not by a long way,” he said. “Everything is on the table when that research comes out. If it says these machines are harmful, I will call for them to be removed.”

This article is provided by Orignative Blog.