Yesterday, betting shop staff took their protests to Parliament, urging the government to ‘not gamble with high street jobs’ and to ‘not introduce a disproportionate cut in stakes on gaming machines’.
Shop staff from Ladbrokes Coral, William Hill, Jennings bet and a number of independent bookmakers, were joined by Laurence Robertson MP, Philip Davies MP and Chris Evans MP as they descended on Westminster to protest against government plans to cut stakes on gaming machines from £100 to £2.
Many believe that A £2 maximum stake would have a catastrophic impact on the future of retail betting. Independent accountants analysed the financial data from 6,500 shops and estimate that a £2 stake would result in 21,000 direct job losses, half of all betting shops closing, a loss to HM Treasury of £1.1 billion over the next three years and a loss to British Racing of £50 million per annum.
Betting shops currently employ over 50,000 people in 8,500 shops throughout the UK and pay over £1 billion in tax, £270 million to horse racing and £80 million to local authorities in business rates every year.
Vicky Knight, who works for independent bookmaker Jennings bet, commented: “A 98% reduction in stake is a disproportionate response. We are a fourth generation family business and the vast majority of people who gamble in our shops do so responsibly. Staff in shops are trained in responsible gambling and how to interact with customers, helping to spot signs of harm or problem gambling. It’s crazy that this stake cut would mean you could bet £6 per minute on a FOBT but people could bet £24 per minute on a pub fruit machine.
“The government are being reckless by ignoring the independent evidence which recommended a £30 stake. We’re talking about a 98% reduction in the stakes but we have lots of adults who want to stake £20 or £30 and that is an appropriate level in a highly regulated environment like a betting shop.”
Ron Hearn, Betting Shop Manager of the Year stated: “I’ve been a racing fan all my life, betting and racing go hand in hand, it’s not just betting shops at risk, it’s racing too, when the shop goes the media rights money to racing goes too, the government shouldn’t gamble with the future of shops or racing, people will still gamble but just in arcades or other forms of gambling where there are few if any staff to interact with them.”