"Stealing" punters from other bookie retail shops criticised
British Labour member of parliament for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris, has described as "appalling" player-poaching techniques allegedly encouraged by the online and land bookmaker William Hill plc.
Harris was approached for comment by The Guardian newspaper after it was given sight of an internal William Hill memo urging its staff to take part in a "torch challenge" which involved turning up at a rival bookmaker wielding a torch and shining it through the shop window to attract the attention of gamblers.
The newspaper reports that the "bizarre" tactic is part of William Hill marketers' strategy to exploit a dispute between Ladbrokes Coral and Betfred with the Racing Partnership horse racing channel over fees charged to bookies for showing races in retail betting shops.
William Hill is not part of the dispute and therefore receives the content.
The idea is apparently to attract the attention of punters in the rival shops, and then incentivise them to switch to Will Hill shops with bonuses and the ability to watch the horse racing denied them in Ladbrokes and Betfred shops by the dispute.
The Guardian report claims that the controversial internal memo advises:
"Let's get disruptive and make sure their punters see the light! Grab a torch and shine it around your local competitor. Take your free bets down too."
MP Harris, who leads a cross-party parliamentary group advocating a reduction in FOBT stakes, reacted strongly to the alleged conduct, saying:
"This is indicative of the way they treat people. It's like two dogs fighting over a piece of meat and they're prepared to go to any lengths. It's pretty appalling. Maybe they're worried the days of FOBTs are numbered so they're trying to get more racing customers".
However, a William Hill spokesman said the issue was being overblown, describing it as "a bit of fun to highlight that we have a product that our competitors don't."
Ladbrokes said: "We're a big high street operator and we're not surprised a competitor will sink to any tactics to try and pinch our customers. We're confident our customers will appreciate what they've already got."
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