Betting Business Bulletin 3rd September, 2017

Record penalty for 888 as bad news for industry continues

The Gambling Commission said last week that more needed to be done to address problem gambling as pressure continues to bear down on the sector.

While the industry regulator said that problem gambling rates remained stable, that did not prevent more bad headlines.

Despite the commission’s statement the news was reported as yet more evidence of an increasing problem, with one newspaper claiming problem gambling had risen by 50 per cent.

Research institute NatCen produced the report, titled Gambling Behaviour in Great Britain in 2015, collating data from three separate reports covering England, Scotland and Wales.

It found that 1.4 per cent of gamblers were classed as problem gamblers (0.8 per cent of the population), with 6.4 per cent classed as at risk (3.9 per cent of the population), a similar rate to that published in the 2012 health survey which covered England and Scotland.

That would make more than two million people in Britain a problem or at-risk gambler.

The report comes as the gambling industry waits for the results of the government’s review of gaming machines and social responsibility measures.

Gambling Commission executive director Tim Miller said: “While overall problem gambling rates remained statistically stable, our research suggests that in excess of two million people are at risk or classed as problem gamblers, with very many more impacted by the wider consequences of gambling related harm.

“We have a clear commitment to make gambling fairer and safer and these figures show that this is a significant challenge.”

He added: “The pace of change to date simply hasn’t been fast enough – more needs to be done to address problem gambling.”

The report said problem gambling was more prevalent among those who had participated in a number of gambling activities in the previous year than those who had just participated in one, which the Association of British Bookmakers claimed showed that concentration on gaming machines was misplaced.

The ABB said there was a responsibility for the gambling industry as a whole to tackle problem gambling.

They added: “Seeking to ban a single gambling product will simply lead to the shifting of problem gamblers to other areas rather than addressing the root cause of the issue.”

Online boost to Ladbrokes Coral

Improved online performance has given a boost to Ladbrokes Coral who unveiled their interim results for the first half of 2017 last week.

Group operating profit rose seven per cent to £158.3 million compared to the same period last year driven by their digital division where net revenue rose 17 per cent to £374.5m.

Retail net revenue of £697.2m was £41.3m or six per cent behind last year, with over-the-counter stakes down ten per cent.

Ladbrokes Coral completed their £2.3 billion merger last year and the company said synergies from that were now expected to be £150m per annum by 2019, more than double the original estimate.

Chief executive Jim Mullen said: “We delivered on the operational and financial targets while going through the integration of a merger.

“There was a concern about whether we could do both and we’re encouraged to say that we have.”

Ladbrokes Coral also announced they were doubling their interim dividend to 2p.

Mullen added: “What’s interesting for me is not the absolute number but that it actually demonstrates the confidence that we can pay it and continue to deliver on the business. I think that’s a real confidence boost for observers and shareholders.”

Ladbrokes Coral, along with other betting shop operators, are awaiting the results of the government’s review of gaming machines, which is expected this autumn and could result in a cut in maximum stakes from £100 to as little as £2, a move the industry has claimed would lead to widespread shop closures.

Mullen said: “The message is that I think everyone – not just the bookmakers but our shop colleagues, Treasury and racing – just need certainty.”

Analysts at Goodbody said Ladbrokes Coral’s digital performance had been “impressive” and that trends in over-the-counter business in betting shops “may be improving” but added: “The investment case remains heavily reliant on the outcome of the triennial review.”

Earlier in the week Ladbrokes Coral announced they would start paying a voluntary levy to greyhound racing based on offshore greyhound turnover from the start of 2018.

They will pay on the same basis at they do in betting shops at 0.6 per cent of greyhound turnover and the company estimates that this would equate to some additional £750,000 of funding on current figures.

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