The bookmakers have come out of the Triennial review with flying colours, having presented a case based on fact rather than misguided rhetoric. But this has not pleased the Daily Mail, Guardian and various lobby groups that are content in telling people how they should live their lives according to their principles.
The other complaint is that the UK High Street is awash with betting shops. While there does appear to be more shops the fact is that there are some 6,000 fewer than there were in the 1960s. It is just that they are more visible nowadays.
The country’s largest operator of ‘pop shops’, or pawnbrokers, is Albemarle and Bond plc. They had a nice business producing good profits. Pawnbrokers lend against the value of gold jewellery, so from July 2008 to July 2011 the price increased from $750 an ounce to $1800 an ounce – an increase of 140%. So gold purchased during this period would be sold at the profit margin plus the price increase of gold making super profits.
The price has now fallen from $1800 to $1250 a fall of 30%. Albemarle and Bond is now losing money yet they managed very well back in July 2008 so what has changed?
Bookmakers used to site shops where there was a good pub because betting and drinking were complementary to each other. Not anymore. Bookmakers have moved onto the High Street and are now paying big rents. The market in such locations is becoming saturated even though the number of shops is down from historic highs.
Basing the location of a business to suit one product is fine so long as that product is sustainable and it should be as long as the Government continues to base decisions on fact rather than misinformation. We do have a coalition Government, however, and all parties are within a hair splitting them from winning the next election. In such circumstances it is easy for even the strongest Governments to wilt.
So what is the answer? It is not easy, it really is not.
In other countries that we look at shops are restricted according to location for example, proximity to a church or school. Insane of course, a major High Street near a church would have no betting shops at all and that would lead to illegal gambling.
I think there are two choices. Bring back the demand test, it had its faults, no denying that, I recall applying for a licence in Dudley, Worcestershire where the majority of magistrates were Methodist, I was 100/1 from the outset. You could have presented the most perfect evidence it would have made no difference the result was in before you got to court.
Alternatively you can let the market work, and it will, because it always does, but it does take time. Patience is a virtue.