Betfred’s boss, Will Hill’s chairman, JenningBet’s MD and the bookie’s Bonnie and Clyde in parliament all scrambled last week to make a last ditch attempt to stop FOBTs maximum stake from being cut to £2.
Bookmakers made what could be their last attempts at lobbying last week in anticipation of an announcement from the DCMS on the maximum stake for FOBTs.
Leading the line was a new face, Esther McVey, who reportedly attempted to use her power as secretary of state for work and pensions to block culture secretary Matt Hancock’s final decision. In an uncomfortable twist, McVey,who has been in an on/off relationship with bookie done MP Philip Davies for 5 years, was immediately accused of protesting on behalf of her partner by members of the general public – making the move appear to have backfired.
However, if that was the case,perhaps a letter from William Hill chairman Roger Devlin,addressed to Theresa May no less,could change the course of would-be gambling industry history? Devlin called the prospective change to the maximum stake of FOBTs “unnecessary and lacking in evidence,” adding that the policy would be “catastrophic” for the betting industry if it was brought in.
Meanwhile, Betfred’s boss Mark Stebbings wrote equally doom-ridden letters to his employees, who were reportedly told just prior to Christmas that their pay would be cut and thereafter linked to FOBT profits, while other jobs were placed on notice. “This would have a significant impact on the viability of the number of our shops and therefore employment in our businesses – it is not too late to warn your MP of the unintended consequences of such a drastic cut,”reads the email sent to staff from Stebbings. “Simply fill in the postcode of where you live,the system will identify who your local MP is, then fill in your contact details and press send – the letter is already written for you and it will be emailed to your MP.”
But MP Carolyn Harris believes the move“is a last- minute desperate attempt to stop the inevitable”,stat- ing that“the introduction of self-service betting terminals to bookmakers’ shops will be the key driver of any future job losses,not a £2 maximum stake”.
Elsewhere other book- maker firms,such as JenningsBet, are starting to look for compromise.The Times reported that among other operators asking for a one year reprieve,Greg Knight, JenningBet’s managing director, called for a probationary period asking for the industry to be allowed to prove itself with a £20 stake.However, amongst the backdrop of 13 unlucky years of FOBTs on the high-street,it is unlikely the bookies will get another chance at exercising self-control.