Talking to Paddy O’Connell on BBC Radio Four last Sunday (3 September), The Association of British Bookmakers CEO Malcolm George said that a ‘pan industry solution’ is required if Britain wants to solve problem gambling.
George details that the ‘personal interaction’ and ‘face-to-face interaction’ that is utilised in betting shops from shop staff who are able to build a stronger connection with customers, often wouldn’t be received in other forms of gambling.
George commented: “A bookmakers is probably one of the safest and best environments to identify problem gamblers and engage with them face to face and point them in the direction to get the help they clearly need.”
“Betting shops are in decline, there are 300 fewer betting shops this year; the levels of profitability and the stability of jobs in betting shops is declining, this is not an industry that is growing.
“I believe that all the evidence has come out that has clearly demonstrated that if you want to shift the problem, absolutely hammer bookmakers, if you want to solve the problem, come to a pan industry solution that actually sees everyone in the industry doing what they can to identify and get help to problem gamblers.”
George added: “A problem gambler walks out of a betting shop, goes down the road into an amusement arcade, walks across the road into a casino, then maybe goes online. Now if you want to reduce betting shop problem gambling numbers, then fine ban these machines, it will reduce the numbers, but will you see amusement arcade machine and casino numbers go up, almost certainly.
“What we have seen over 20 years, is between half and one per cent of the population having a gambling problem. In that time, online has arrived, fixed odds betting terminals in bookies have come in and the numbers stay the same.”
The interview followed on from the record breaking £7.8 million fine received by 888 for failing to protect vulnerable gamblers, when due to a technical failure with the site, customers who had self excluded from managed to deposit and gamble onto the site.