Grahame Morris MP: How the betting and gaming industry is closing the opportunity gap in the North East
Britain is in the grip of dramatic change. A new Head of State, a new Prime Minister and new policy priorities. Amidst these seismic shifts, one priority endures, the need to level up the UK.
Talent, flair and industry are not located in a handful of national hotspots but spread across the country. The same cannot be said for opportunity, the lack of which is limiting life chances and undermining our regional economies.
The betting and gaming industry is one sector closing the opportunity gap in the North East, directly employing over 2,000 people in betting shops and casinos as well as supporting many hundreds more in sports such as racing. In total, the regulated betting and gaming sector supports a staggering 119,000 jobs, contributes £7.7bn to the economy and generates £4.5bn in taxes for the Treasury annually.
Every month some 22.5 million adults in the UK enjoy a game of bingo, bet on football, horses, greyhounds and other sports. The UK sector is well regulated. Problem gambling rates are among the lowest in Europe at 0.2 per cent, according to the independent regulator.
The sector is vast, spanning bookies on hard-pressed high streets, tourism-boosting casinos in major cities and is a global high-tech powerhouse industry. There is potential for more growth, with estimates suggesting the industry will generate 15,000 tech jobs in the next five years alone.
The UK betting industry is not only creating jobs but is investing in its workforce. Flutter’s new technology and innovation hub in Leeds is home to 1700 staff, a bustling centre of excellence for Flutter brands operating in the UK and Ireland, delivering the well-paid, high skills jobs our economy needs.
Meanwhile, Bet365 is a British success story, developing cutting-edge technology, with over 4,500 staff employed in Stoke-on-Trent. These highly skilled, high-quality jobs provide excellent long-term career opportunities for families across the area.
A report by the think tank, This Is Purpose, highlights the pledge to create 5,000 apprenticeships over the next three years, including a further £20m for training and development programs. The industry empowers employees with diversity and inclusion initiatives, delivering the tools and confidence to help people progress in their careers.
This is levelling up in action, investing in our regional economies and delivering well-paid, high-skill jobs in former industrial communities in the North East, North West and the Midlands. Despite delivering the Government’s levelling up agenda, this investment in local economies, people and skills, is under threat through Government regulations. A new White Paper, which has been repeatedly delayed, is expected soon with a raft of changes. The Betting and Gaming Industry embraces change, but unfair regulations will not protect the thousands of people working in the sector. We need balance, protecting the vulnerable while not impacting the majority who enjoy a bet.
We need to empower players by building on the tools created like time-outs and deposit limits. For those most at risk, there are self-exclusion schemes like GamStop and gambling blocking software like Gamban. These tools are effective, making Britain one of the safest places in the world to place a bet. Heavy-handed rules banning free bet promotions, or imposing blanket affordability checks at very low levels, will create a lucrative, unregulated, and dangerous Black Market, compromising player safety.
Our regional economies are not benefitting from Government Levelling Up schemes. Where the private sector is leading the way, we need to encourage and develop growth. We cannot allow the Government to undermine one of the few industries delivering on levelling up.
Grahame Morris is the Labour MP for Easington
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