source at one of the leading casino groups accused the report’s authors of being ‘negligent and irresponsible’ to allow more machines per shop without requiring extra licensing conditions, as well as permitting them for the first time in amusement arcades.
‘Other countries keep the higher category machines in places such as casinos where there is a higher level of scrutiny over who is playing them,’ he said. ‘Here they are proposing to allow more of these machines in High Street bookmakers where anyone can walk in and where there is often single-staffing.
‘If you have ten or 20 machines in one shop, who is going to be supervising them?’ The British Beer & Pub Association said it feared revenues from pub fruit machines would be hit as people chose to bet on higher jackpot machines. Church groups have also made clear their opposition to betting machines.
‘This is a one-way street towards more addictive gambling machines in our communities,’ said Gareth Wallace of the Salvation Army.
Shares in all the big bookmaking chains gained from publication of the report. It was a particular boost to Ladbrokes, which is poised to confirm this week that its online revenues have declined by half after delays in rolling out its new digital platform.
Analysts said the problem, which meant the new website was not ready by the Euro 2012 football championship as expected, was ‘embarrassing’ and ‘credibility sapping’. They compared Ladbrokes unfavourably to rival William Hill, which last week revealed strong trading figures from both the retail division and online.
Consensus figures estimate the half-year pre-tax profits to be slightly up on the first half of last year at £103.5million, with over-the-counter bets only just staying ahead of income from the controversial betting machines, which are continuing to grow rapidly.
Meanwhile, pubs, theatres and casinos are bracing themselves to pay up to an extra £4,400 a year if they open late, due to draft regulations published by the Government.
In its response to public consultation, the Government confirmed that a late-night levy will charge business selling alcohol past midnight. The fee will go towards policing and clean-up costs.