A round-up of some of the recent events that have happened in the UK betting sector, signalling the wider picture of bookmakers’ fortunes.

Stan James goes Mega
Stan James was one of the most well-known names in UK sports betting UK.  But the Fisher family no longer runs the business.  It has been sold to Bet21 and now trades as Megabet Ltd.  One of the first tasks for Megabet after the takeover was to close 50 of the 90 shops.

A further episode which highlights the malaise in the UK betting shop sector.

Three-day week
A sign on the front of the independent betting shop College Racing states that it will only be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Bookmakers Technology Consortium commented that it was probably due to high media costs, which have become unsustainable because of the lower stake limit on FOBTs.

Going to the dogs
The Daily Telegraph reported (26 June 2019) that greyhound racing was not taking sufficient account of the animals’ welfare. 

According to the article the bookmakers are to blame and they should stump up 0.6% of turnover to help fund greyhound welfare.

We have been here before.  The greyhound industry has always wanted a levy that would bring parity with horse racing. The government wanted to end the horse race levy, so it cajoled bookmakers to pay a voluntary greyhound levy instead.  Voluntary means that some pay and some choose not to pay. When I was a bookmaker, I chose not to pay as did many others. 

My thoughts were that if a levy was such a good thing then bring in the appropriate legislation.  But there was another better reason not to pay.  Levies, or subsidies as I prefer to call them, do not work.  They stifle efficiency and keep inefficient businesses going longer than they should.  

That is precisely what has happened to greyhound racing.  There used to be 77 licensed tracks and now there are 24. 

I recall having lunch with Lord Kimball who was chairman of the British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF). He was trying to persuade me to pay into the fund. When I refused, he said “your problem is that you are a Thatcherite”. I took it as a compliment, but it was meant to be an insult.  

The Conservative Party lost its way a long time ago.

by Warwick Bartlett