International edition
October 15, 2021

Executive calls for “cumulative impact” test

William Hill CEO opposed to betting shop clustering

(UK).- Ralph Topping, William Hill CEO, revealed he is opposed to the “clustering” of betting shops in the UK and has called on MPs to take action before the situation starts to “alienate” communities. “We think a ‘cumulative impact’ test would be lawful and could be sensibly applied by licensing authorities,” he said.

Betting shops have always been part of the community, but when the situation starts to alienate communities the industry needs to listen and politicians need to act. We think a ‘cumulative impact’ test would be lawful and could be sensibly applied by licensing authorities.”

Topping’s comments will place more pressure on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which have drawn criticism from politicians and campaign groups alike. The terminals, which allow punters to spend up to £100 per spin, generate around half of the total revenue for UK betting shops and have been blamed for an increase in problem gambling.

The current law allows betting shops to have just four FOBT machines on the premises, but campaigners have argued that clusters of shops allow the operator to open a shop next door or nearby to bypass the law. Anti-gambling campaigners have also called on ministers to reduce the amount that can be staked in the machine from £100 to £2, but the government is yet to react despite MPs calling for action, as reported by iGaming Business.

Although admitting that action should be taken, Topping said he “totally rejects” restricting particular products and said any such move would “do nothing to reduce gambling-related harm” and the closure of betting shops would negatively impact the sport of horseracing.

Instead, Topping is backing a new “cumulative impact” test that is similar to the one used for alcohol licensing, which would allow shops to be rejected by planners of they cause “social, economic or community concerns”.Adrian Parkinson of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling lobby group claimed that the William Hill chief was “trying to fool people”.

“Companies of the size of William Hill, Ladbrokes and Betfred would not be bothered by a new test,” he said. “It would only increase the value of their betting shops in an area as no one would be able to open in competition to them.“It also wouldn’t solve the problem of local authorities who want to reject a betting shop facing the threat of expensive legal action from the bookmaker.

“William Hill in particular is the cause of clustering in many areas. What Topping is proposing is a watered down measure that would not provide any greater powers to local authorities. It shouldn’t even be considered.”

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