William Hill react to the announcement by communities minster, Don Foster MP, of a government review of B2 gaming machines in betting offices.
Far from resisting a call for research on the social impact of gaming machines in betting shops, William Hill think a fundamental evidence based review of the deployment of gaming machines in all gambling sub- sectors, including seaside arcades and casinos is appropriate. This is far better than a piecemeal review.
Just as important is the social impact of taking B2 gaming machines out of betting shops or lowering stakes and prizes for the thousands of betting shop staff who rely on them to maintain leisure industry jobs.
There is still a significant problem with illegal gaming machine supply in social clubs and fast food outlets in inner cities. So even on the basis of current supply, there is still a lot of machine use outside the regulated sector. The Gambling Commission can supply evidence and intelligence not only of illegal gaming machine supply, but illegal poker clubs and illegal bookmakers in pubs and clubs. Closing betting shops on a moral whim is not good policy.
With levels of problem gambling in the UK being low by international standards, is the major risk gaming machines in adult only betting shops, or availability of gaming machines to children and young people in seaside arcades; where there is little or no delineation of over 18 areas?
What the review will do is present anti gambling groups, academics, certain local authorities, political activists and those with vested competitive interests with a second opportunity to present empirical evidence of harm and competitive distortion; if indeed it exists at all.
This is something all these people failed to do with the DCMS Select Committees enquiry into this subject only a few weeks ago. Instead there were a lot of bald assertions and emotional rhetoric, but little in the way of hard fact. Now those same individuals have pressed for another review because they did not get what they wanted first time around.
Thank goodness "evidenced based policy making" are not hollow words in all quarters.
Media stories that focus on isolated cases of problem gambling are sad, but again, not a basis for sound gambling policy. No one in our industry is a problem gambling denier, but it is about proportionality.
Neither is it right for policy to be informed by the inaccurate ramblings of the so called "Fairer Gambling" organisation which has its own motivations for briefing against the betting industry.
In short an industry that supports 40,000 direct jobs, with a disproportionate number of those jobs being for women and the under 25's, welcomes a proper analysis of the social impact of creating an anti growth policy on dodgy foundations. Such a policy could result in thousands of job losses in an already struggling retail sector.
Hopefully following a comprehensive and objective social impact assessment based on evidence, rather than the sort of emotive rhetoric pedalled by Don Foster MP and the Daily Mail, the truth will out.