Commercial campaign against betting shops misleading parliamentarians
Reducing maximum stakes on gaming machines to £2 would result in the loss of 21,000 jobs throughout the UK, says the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB).
With all the uncertainties that Brexit brings, jobs and investment in the UK have never been more important.
So, it is disappointing that once again commercial competitors of High Street betting shops are attempting to mislead MPs with a campaign that has no evidence, but will, without doubt, destroy jobs.
A few weeks ago, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) was found guilty by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner of breaking the rules no less than four times with its flawed report on FOBTs.
Yet, they, and the commercial rivals who fund the group, are back again levelling unfounded allegations against betting shops with another propaganda stunt about gaming machines in betting shops.
This week, they are contacting MPs about the amount of money spent in betting shops on gaming machines.
It may not fit their narrative to tell MPs the truth – that, in fact, 87% of all money spent on gambling in the UK is on other forms of gambling such as the lottery, arcades and in casinos. Just 13% of all money spent is on gaming machines in betting shops.
But it is betting shops that these commercial rivals are targeting to further boost their own vested and commercial interests.
Betting shops employ more people, 52,000 in total, than the rest of the gambling industry combined.
Reducing the maximum stakes on gaming machines in betting shops to £2 would result in 21,000 of these people losing their jobs.
That is 21,000 people, who are trained to interact with and help identify those at risk of problem gambling, out of a job.
That would be devastating for those staff and a huge loss in the ability to help spot and interact with people who may be at risk of problem gambling.
The ill-founded campaign against betting shops comes despite the Gambling Commission finding earlier this year that there is no link between gambling machines in betting shops and problem gambling.
As an industry, we fully accept that problem gambling for a small minority does occur and that is why betting shops have invested, and will continue to invest, millions of pounds in new responsible gambling innovations.
The list of actions that we have taken so far is a long one: It includes giving players the chance to set limits on the time or money they spend, no ATMs in betting shops, ceasing advertising gaming machines in shop windows, displaying responsible gambling messages on machines while people are playing and new technology to track customer play for signs of potentially problematic behaviour.
We are not complacent and are always working on measures to help the minority of problem gamblers who need our help.
However, The All-Party Parliamentary Group on FOBTs is less helpful when it comes to discussing the issues with its campaign. It is also less than transparent when it comes to its actions, as the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner found.
The group’s funders include casinos, arcades, pubs and a secretive company called the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, which is run by a Las Vegas-based casino games inventor who has spent a fortune lobbying against betting shops, while trying to reduce taxes and restrictions on casinos.
For those that pose for pictures with the commercial competitors of betting shops this week they will be doing so in the knowledge that they are campaigning to put their constituents out of jobs while doing nothing to help problem gamblers.
Instead of being taken in by spin from vested interests, we invite MPs to see the real story by coming to meet shop staff and customers for themselves, to see the commitment they all have to making gambling safe and responsible.
MPs have a responsibility to their constituents to see this job-destroying plan to harm High Street betting shops for what it is – an unrepresentative campaign aimed at securing a commercial advantage for our rivals at the expense of decent, well-paid jobs.