Bricks and mortar gambling in jeopardy, say ABB

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The betting industry has started the process of reforming its character after a torrid beating over FOBTs. And it’s going to be an uphill struggle. However, it has identified a cause: betting retail outlets on Britain’s high streets are dying, say the ABB. While some may quip that there are already too many, the case for 4,000 shuttered shops, 20,000 job losses, and no-one lined up to fill the shopping void, betting finds itself at the mercy of a common retail threat – online.

Online gaming, government measures and prohibitive retail rents may well be placing the future of high-street destination betting in jeopardy,according to the industry’s trade-association.

The Association of British Bookmakers cites growing consumer uptake of digital gaming media, as well as the government’s upcoming crackdown on FOBTs, as key contributors to what it envisions as a wave of upcoming closures of betting shops up and down the country.

An ABB spokesperson claimed that as many as 4,000 outlets will shut down by 2020 – putting around 20,000 employees out of work.

“High street betting shops also face similar issues to other retailers,like competition from other forms of gambling and the increasing costs of rent and business rates,” they said.

Good news for AGC operators? Perhaps not. Across the breadth of the industry, most areas of the UK have seen a decline in landed gambling outlets of all kinds since 2010, with some notable exceptions. ONS statistics show that London has seen a large surge in high-street presence over the past decade,a trend reflected in 61 other, mostly urban,regions of the country. But in places like Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, the downward trend has been stark:with fifteen gambling facilities in 2010 down to just five in 2018.

Now worth in excess of £14bn a year,the UK’s burgeoning online market may well be the primary culprit.

Indeed, such has been the level of domestic traffic to UK gambling sites,even industry skeptics GambleAware have weighed in to suggest that, alongside the loss of physical premises, comes the loss of a good degree of accountability.

“We are very concerned there are potentially no limits to the amounts gamblers can lose online,where there are no statutory limits to stake values and the use of credit cards is permitted” said its chief executive Marc Etches. “Retailing is moving from the high street to online,and gambling is no different.”

Ever eager to jump on any bandwagon passing by, the ultimate opportunist Etches does have a point, albeit somewhat wide of the mark. Whilst he carves out a social disaster focused on 0.7 percent of the gambling population, the actual and broader disaster of jobs lost on the high street, revenues lost from high street businesses and the decline of community services resulting from a lack of investment from fewer gaming and gambling operations in town centres is a real and present danger.

Read with scepticism what we like into the disputed figures from the betting industry, the decline of gaming venues is a major concern to all stakeholders, and its one local councils will likely be forced into reappraising their attitude towards once the business rates stops flowing in, the shutters start coming down on closed shops and footfall on the high street shifts into terminal decline.

The need for an urgent review of institutional opposition to gaming and gam- bling premises is becoming more of a necessity.

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