UK Bookmakers Discredit New FOBT Survey

Association of British Bookmakers claims new NERA study commissioned by the British Amusement Catering Trade Association is flawed

A disagreement has broken out in the UK between the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, the British Amusement Catering Trade Association (BACTA) and researchers NERA Economic Consulting.

The row started when The Telegraph newspaper published numbers from a new NERA study on the impact on betting shop numbers of a possible government mandated stake reduction on the controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) commonplace in British retail betting shops.

The study was commissioned by BACTA.

With the possible threat of a government review resulting in a reduction in the maximum betting stake on the machines, bookmakers are concerned about the implications for their bottom lines. That, they contend, could result in wide shop closures with an attendant loss of jobs.

The NERA report claimed there would be no shop closures as a consequence of the imposition of a GBP 20 maximum stake, and that at a GBP 10 maximum stake, shops could be safe if a high portion of the money previously spent on FOBT gambling was spent on other forms of gambling in the same shops.

NERA stated the “report was harvested using a model it had previously developed”, which refers to a report carried out by NERA and published by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling in 2014, which estimated shop closures would be in the 700 to 1,200 range. The bookies apparently did not challenge that estimate.

Discussing the Telegraph article, a ABB spokesperson pointed out that NERA had not had access to FOBT data and shop profitability data. The Association said its own analysis has concluded that 2,500 shops may close nationally by 2020 if a GBP 20 stake limit was imposed, and 3,300 shops may close at a GBP10 limit.

The spokesperson also noted that BACTA commissioned the study, and claimed that the entity has a “commercial interest in undermining bookmakers” by “benefitting if FOBT stakes were reduced”.

The ABB figures apparently come from a KPMG study which the bookmakers’ trade association has not made fully public, creating criticism from NERA supporters, who point out that their full report is available.

BACTA supporters also argue that if betting shop closures take place this would not necessarily convert punters to their arcades, but would more likely result in them frequenting the plethora of other nearby shops.