Reality at odds with figures in report on problem gambling

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From: Dirk Vennix, Chief Executive, Association of British Bookmakers, Buckingham Palace Road, London.

I AM writing to you regarding an article (Yorkshire Post, February 15) entitled “Crack cocaine of gambling costs regions punters £112m”.

Firstly, while I recognise that you have provided a quote at the end of the piece, I would like to state our disappointment at not having been contacted for clarification on the facts and figures of the article, given that the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) is the leading trade association for bookmakers and represents around 80 per cent of the UK’s betting shops.

The figures being used in the article, which have been supplied by the lobby group Campaign for Fairer Gambling, are factually inaccurate and materially misleading. The data upon which the estimate of £112m is based upon unverified rudimentary assumptions and projections without basis in fact. Furthermore, the figure is misleadingly described as “loss” or “spend” when it is actually “stake” which can of course also yield a return equal to or bigger than the amount placed. It is also misleading to suggest that this money is lost on casino games when 30 per cent of the profits are generated by B3 £2 maximum machines games.

The article refers to the product as “addictive machines” which is a disingenuous statement not borne out by facts. Incidents of problem gambling, as recorded by the Gambling Commission’s Prevalence Study, has remained relatively static in recent years despite the availability of more products, and is still significantly lower than many comparable countries such as Iceland, USA, South Africa and Hong Kong. The most recent study, published in 2011, also noted that there was no evidence of a causal link between problem gambling and gaming machines. It is clear from the Commission’s study and other research which has taken place, that people who suffer from addictions use a wide variety of products, suggesting the need for an individual rather than a product-related response.

It is particularly disingenuous to provide a loss figure for “every child” in particular constituencies when the Yorkshire Post should be aware that betting operators do not allow the under-age to enter or gamble in betting shops.

The piece makes reference to B3 games which are limited to £2 stakes, while insinuating that B2 games are separate and unlimited.

It is important to remember that these games are featured upon the same machines and that B2 games are limited to £100 stake and £500 prize. There is also no mention of the fact that customers can also win on such games, and it should be noted that the average return on roulette games is 97.3 per cent. It is also wrong to state that these games are played “at breakneck speed” when their speed cycle is actually one of the slowest in the world.

The article makes the suggestion that the amount of betting shops have greatly increased, and makes reference to betting shop numbers having “exploded over recent years”. This is a suggestion which is both misleading and factually inaccurate.

Betting shop numbers have remained relatively stable in recent years, and have nearly halved since their peak of 15,782 in 1968 to 9,031 in 2013.

It is also important to remember that the figures often referred to are licences, not new shops, and as such incorporate closure and relocation of shops as well as new licences which are not subsequently utilised. To suggest that the figures are “new shops” is misleading.

Whilst the tone of your article suggests that new betting shops are by definition a negative occurrence, it is important to recognise the benefits that they bring. For example, around 80 per cent of new betting shops open in empty premises, bringing more jobs, investment and footfall to otherwise often struggling high streets.

Similarly, gaming machines, whilst consistently referred to in the article as necessarily negative, are a legitimate, regulated and popular product which are an integral part of an operator’s offer to consumers.

From: Allen Jenkinson, Lipscomb Street, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

YOU are looking at the millions lost to gambling from the wrong end (Yorkshire Post, February 15), they are not lost, they are profits.

Since deregulation, gambling in this country has reached an unprecedented industrial scale with investors and shareholders investing millions and all demanding the maximum return.

I’m not against gambling, I gamble myself, but when those that can least afford it are enticed with instantaneous life-changing amounts of money, it is immoral. But while we have a government that promotes profit over everything else...