Bookmakers Fighting For Their Lives After FOBT Crackdown

By Martin Green24 November 2019
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Fred Done

William Hill saw revenues in its retail betting shops decrease by a third in Q3 as a result of the change in maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals. The UK government imposed a maximum stake of £2 earlier this year, down from £100, and that has decimated high street bookmakers. Revenue from gaming machines was down 39%, although some of this was offset by an increase in sports betting revenue. Overall revenue increased 1% on a year-on-year basis during Q3 and that was attributed to growth in its US business. William Hill US is one of the biggest players in North America and it has a market leading position in Nevada. “We have remodelled the UK retail estate, while the UK online business has benefited from a series of customer facing improvements evidenced in the stabilising market share in the last two quarters,” said Ulrik Bengtsson, who recently took over from Philip Bowcock as chief executive. “In addition, we expect our international online business to benefit from a number of important product improvements that will be delivered over the coming quarters.”

Betfred founder Fred Done said that bookmakers are fighting for their lives in the way of the reduction in FOBT maximum stakes. More than 1,000 betting shops have closed their doors since April, at a rate of four per day, and the remaining stores are being forced to scale back drastically. “We are fighting for our lives,” said Done. “When Mothercare closed there was lots of sympathy for the people who lost their jobs. But I haven't heard a single politician show sympathy for anyone out of work in the betting industry. We don’t matter to the government.” The government is now going after online betting sites and some MPs hope to force a reduction in online casino stakes too.

Betway could be in hot water after the UK Gambling Commission began an investigation into a punter that lost £370,000. Ben Jones, a 30-year-old wholesale manager at The Cake Decorating Co., was jailed for three years after admitting that he stole from the company to fund his betting habit. Betway is now being investigated over whether it failed to check that Jones could afford the sums he was wagering. Daniel White, owner of The Cake Decorating Co, said: “We were badly let down. Gambling companies have a regulatory duty to prevent stolen money from being gambled. Adequate money-laundering checks were not carried out, which left us vulnerable to this crime.” The watchdog could impose a multimillion-pound fine on Betway if it is found to have failed in its duties as a responsible operator.

Paddy Power co-founder Stewart Kenny and former chief executive Patrick Kennedy have invested in sports technology group Kitman Labs. They are among a number of Irish investors backing the firm, whose technology is used by more than 150 sports teams across the world. It is part of a $5.1 million funding round for Kitman. Paddy Power was in the news this week after a punter earned a £71,244 payout by compiling a successful 25-leg acca, which carried odds of more than 40,000/1 with a £1.60 stake. It all came down to the final game between Germany and Belarus, in which the punter backed Germany to win and over 3.5 goals in the match. A late penalty save from Manuel Neuer could have caused heartbreak, but an 83rd minute strike from Toni Kroos made it 4-0 to the Germans and saw the bet come in.