Monday 6 August 2012

In case it's not mentioned in Dispatches...

This evening Channel 4 will be broadcasting a programme about the bookmaking industry. I would like to think that this will be a fair and balanced look at British gambling habits, but the trailer suggests that it will be an anti-gambling polemic designed to make the viewer believe that the country is being flooded with betting shops.

Just in case Dispatches doesn't bother to mention them, here are the facts. The number of betting shops peaked in 1973 at over 15,000. In 2003, the Department for Media, Culture and Sport published a document showing what happened between 1987 and 2003. What happened was numbers continued to fall gradually...

In 2003, there were 8,804 bookies in operation. I can't find the figures for 2004-2008, but in 2009 there were 8,862. Today, in 2012, there are 9,128. The number of bookmakers has therefore risen by less than 4 per cent in the last ten years (broadly in line with population growth) and remains lower than at any time between the 1960 legalisation and 1996.

If there is a perception that betting shop numbers have rocketed in recent years, it is because the recession has caused the rent on commercial property to fall and so betting shops have been able to move from the side street to the high street.

I understand that Dispatches will focus on fixed odds betting terminals—the new bogeyman of the anti-gambling movement. There are valid questions to ask about where these devices should sit in the regulatory ladder, but do not be fooled into thinking the country is awash with betting shops.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the statistics, which, quite honestly, do not surprise me.

After all the other moves in Lifestyle Control, betting shops just had to be the next step.

I have only patronised them on two occasions, however, I would not say they should be banned or restricted.

As with anything else, a small percentage of people use them to excess, although the vast majority do not.

Sorry, bansturbators, but your choice of 'life partner' who shows signs of weakness (e.g. gambling, drink) should not deprive the majority of responsible punters the enjoyment of a flutter or two.


Tony said...

Looked like a complete hatchet job to me. It's all part of the plan to ban anything that anyone enjoys.

Sam said...

Any part of the program or feedback on twitter mention that the National Lottery is "fixed odds betting" ?

Dan said...

Years and years ago, my father and I were involved in the bookmaking business, he as the front man, I mostly as his clerk. Back then, making a book on most racecourses was not a passport to riches; it was a passport to just about making your expenses most days, and getting mildly well-off on really good days.

Betting tax at 4% was a pain in the bum, especially so when explaining this to a boozed-up punter at pay-out time. Explaining what a 1/5 of the odds each way bet came to, then explaining the tax was painful at times; you could almost see some punters' desperation.

What finally hurt the on-course betting business was the National Lottery. It completely removed all the mug-money (bookies are very, very forthright speakers). Some people will bet on a three-legged donkey winning the Grand National; I've even seen people try to bet on non-runners and horses that have fallen in the early parts of a long point-to-point race. Some people are utterly, amazingly, idiotically bad at betting.

The art of bookmaking is to take more money than you pay out in any eventuality. To make a decent book, getting a good spread of money right across the field (a "field" is the term for all runners in a race) apart from the rank outsiders. Take away the mug money, and it all gets much, much harder; this is why bookmakers are in decline.