Interesting discussion in today's Racing Post about 'plagues' of betting shops in city centres. Councils and residents are getting sick of them, the big bookies love them and can't get enough retail shops.
Why I hear you ask? Racing's share of the gambling pound is ever decreasing, more and more punters are betting online and you rarely see anyone in the betting shops that already exist... except standing around the FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) or glorified slot machines. And that's what brings in the profits for the bookies. Racing, football and any other sport they show in the shops are mere sideshow value to the evil machines.
Every licensed betting shop in the UK can have four FOBTs (little wonder Irish betting shops are struggling in comparison without them), which have much higher prize limits than pub fruit machines. Sources at the biggest High St firms have told me that they consistently make up to £1m per DAY across their network of outlets from these things. No wonder they want to own as many as they can. Local govt regulations were changed in 2005, previously there had to be cause shown for an additional betting shop to be opened. Now it's just open slather.
What city centre really wants to have its streets full of betting shops, pound shops and junk food outlets? Congratulations to Newmarket City Council for rejecting betting shop no.12 in their city centre, but it should never have been allowed to get that far.
An ideal system might be X per 1000 people within a council, with licences then sold off to the highest bidders and some retained for local independents. Do we really need to see three Ladbrokes/Will Hill/Paddy Power/BetFred shops within a one-mile radius? Not even the plague of Starbucks has gotten that bad...
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