As a direct employer of over 40,000 people, on local high streets, 2012 has been a busy year for the Association of British Bookmakers, writes chief executive Dirk Vennix.
Serving over 8 million customers, we pay one billion pounds a year in taxes – the equivalent of the salaries of 35,000 nurses or 28,600 teachers.
But we also recognise we have a responsibility to the areas in which we operate, we want to be good neighbours and responsible retailers. That is why when organisations, whether councils or police or residents come to us with concerns about our shops, we respond and address them.
One example is in the London Borough of Ealing, where we have held a series of meetings with local councillors, council officers, residents and businesses, working together to deal with their concerns. We organised a “drop in” event, where the ABB and our members were able to discuss the responsible gambling procedures the industry has in place, and highlight the contribution the betting shops in the area make to the community. We were also able to showcase the local “Bet Watch” system that had been set up, with local shop managers sharing information about anti-social behaviour or incidents of crime to other shop managers, regardless of which company they worked for.
In Lewisham, our Members have signed up to the Deptford High Street charter, where local retailers work together with the local authority and police to ensure the local environment is safe, clean and liveable.
There are different challenges in 2013 – on 1st February, a new Machine Games Duty tax is introduced. This new tax could make many profitable shops unprofitable overnight, as we estimate it will cost the industry an additional £318million in extra tax over the next five years, and it looks likely to see profits drop by as much as 17%.
We are also expecting the Government to launch a review of electronic gaming machines. The machines used in betting shops have become more and more popular over the last few years, giving existing customers a new product to enjoy and bringing in many new customers as well.
So, a busy 2012 and a busy 2013 to come.