Betting shops are nicer places to be – but at what price?
Well, there’s a surprise. Betting shops are nicer places to be since the FOBT minimum stake was cut from £100 to £2. Ok, maybe not such a surprise.
Last week Kenny Alexander, chief executive of GVC, owner of Ladbrokes and Corals said:
“I think the betting shops have a much better atmosphere since the reduced limits on FOBTs. We’re seeing fewer incidents against staff and disorder around the machines.
“The environment in the betting shops is better, so people are keener to go in and stay longer and are maybe spending a bit more on the dogs, the horse racing and football coupons.”
Did the scales suddenly fall from the eyes? Was there no appreciation that shops were attracting customers, shovelling hundreds of pounds into the machines, who became threatening, or worse, when they lost?
Of course not. If there is now a trend for fewer incidents, then there would be have been knowledge of such incidents on the rise once the machines were installed.
Shop managers and district managers would have seen the rise of anti-social behaviour, and it’s unlikely they kept it to themselves.
Ditto regular customers who saw people in the shops playing or standing around the machines, showing little interest in sports betting. With an undercurrent of aggression, some shops became virtual no-go areas.
But the bookmakers were seeing very healthy profits from the machines, even if staff and customers were experiencing a less than healthy experience.
Now the machines have gone, and the players with them, and betting shops are nicer places to be.
It’s just a shame that whilst they were in operation, they fed the habits of problem gamblers, and made other customers feel less welcome. A shame too that shops were specifically opened so that machines could be installed.
Then, after a pathetic defence put up by bookmakers of the machines, the inevitable cut in minimum stakes was imposed, and the profits came tumbling down. The knock-on effect of shop closures, lost jobs and severely reduced financial contributions to racing is gathering momentum.
Racecourse after racecourse is issuing a warning that the pressure of closed shops and consequent lost media rights income will impact prize-money .
But betting shops are nicer places to be. Shame about the cost.
Was it the main event?
The past weekend’s racing was pretty decent fare. Group races abounded at Newmarket which also staged the second leg of the autumn-double, the Cesarewitch, and there was the jump-season curtain-raiser at Chepstow, the Persian War Hurdle.
However, whilst York had some good racing, it’s a stretch to say that the Coral Sprint Trophy Handicap represented the day’s main contest. Yet it was the only race featured in the freebie Metro newspaper’s racing page.
Probably had something to do with the racing coverage sponsored by Corals.
♦ On a personal note, it was pleasing to see the Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity, has been announced as the new Official Charity Partner of The Jockey Club.
The two-year partnership will help Alzheimer’s Society to raise funds and awareness for the support, care and research it carries out.
The Society will help raise awareness of its large network of local support services for people with dementia and their carers to Jockey Club colleagues and customers, offering advice and support on all aspects of dementia.
My mum had dementia when she died earlier this year, aged 90. Sport, including racing, was something she was just about still able to enjoy and something we could still talk about.
The charity will also work with The Jockey Club to become more dementia friendly, including rolling out the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme, which is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia, across the group.
If you get the opportunity to support the cause, do please feel generous.