Betting shop battle set to run and run
A battle over betting shop media rights looks set to run and run with a large number of independent bookmakers saying they do not want to take SIS’s service next year.
That could have consequences for some of Britain’s biggest racecourses through a reduction in media rights income.
Last week SIS announced a relaunch of its service to betting shops, saying it will be a ‘must-have’ package for bookmakers’ customers.
Due to changes in the media rights landscape, SIS will have a much diminished British horseracing service for the first three months of 2018 – consisting of Chelmsford City, Leicester, Stratford and Taunton, along with Irish racing, foreign racing and greyhounds – thanks to the emergence of new channel The Racing Partnership (TRP), in which Arena Racing Company is the driving force.
However, from April 1 SIS will be able to show action from all Racecourse Media Group’s tracks, including Jockey Club Racecourses, Ascot, Goodwood, Newbury and York.
SIS product director Paul Witten said SIS would discount for the first quarter due to the diminished British racing content, which would cost them a “significant financial hit”.
Asked about the prospect of bookmakers not taking their service, Witten said: “I’m not being complacent about this and that is part of the reason for discounting the first quarter.
“When it gets to April 1 it is a bold decision by a bookmaker to not take the service that contains RMG horseracing and the full SIS greyhound service and Irish horseracing.”
However, Michael Corbett, managing director of Corbettsports, and Dominic Ford, owner of Roar Betting, who are directors of the Bookmakers Technology Consortium which represents independent bookmakers, said the service SIS is proposing is a “can’t-possibly- have not a must-have option for independent betting shop operators”.
They said in a joint statement: “Indeed, we understand that a number of independent bookmakers have already cancelled their contracts with SIS from January 1.”
Corbett and Ford said SIS’s proposed service from next year, which will cost more than £19,000 per shop, was an “untenable commercial proposition”.
They claimed independent bookmakers in the UK would “happily” take Chelmsford City, the RMG courses and 49’s virtuals as a single channel and that the cost of that channel would be under £9,000 per annum.
“However, we are told that we must pay over £19,000 per annum as SIS have agreed to bundle greyhounds and Irish horseracing into the service,” they added, “content which, at the price, UK bookmakers would rather do without.”
They added: “The majority of independent betting shops in the UK now rely on BTC for data services and it is vital that BTC can continue to provide these services.
“It is difficult to see independent bookmakers signing any contracts with SIS until it is clear that SIS can and will work with BTC to support the independent sector.
“Unless agreements can be reached there is the realistic prospect of more than 500 UK shops not taking the RMG content from April 1. This would have a significant impact on the income of those racecourses.”
Knight renews criticism of rival’s call for FOBT stake cut
Jenningsbet managing director Greg Knight last week renewed his criticism of Paddy Power Betfair chief executive Breon Corcoran’s recent call for a cut in FOBT stakes.
The boss of Britain’s largest chain of independent bookmakers has written to culture secretary Karen Bradley and sports minister Tracey Crouch to tell them he was “extremely concerned” the government would take Corcoran’s comments at face value and claimed his rival was “seeking to deliberately undermine the UK retail betting industry”.
Last month Corcoran wrote to Crouch at the Department for Digital, Media and Sport calling for stakes on FOBTs to be reduced to £10 or less when the government publishes the results of its gambling review as the subject had become “toxic” to the industry.
In response, Knight said Corcoran’s letter was driven by “blatant commercial consideration” and he repeated that claim in his own letter to ministers in which he said Paddy Power Betfair’s aim was “to capitalise on the demise of the independent sector in the UK by takeover and market consolidation”.
He added: “It would also benefit from the migration online of retail customers.”
Paddy Power Betfair said they did not wish to respond to Knight’s claims.
“Wake-up call” for gambling operators
Responsible Gambling Week kicks off on Thursday but there was a reminder of how important the subject is in recent days with the publication of a new report which was a “loud wake-up call” for the industry.
According to the report, the gambling industry is not doing enough to train staff in responsible gambling while customers feel existing responsible gambling messages are often confusing and unclear.
The report was commissioned by the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), which represents the Association of British Bookmakers and Remote Gambling Association as well as the bingo, casino and amusements trade bodies.
It revealed many staff had not had practical training in how to promote responsible gambling in their day-to-day jobs, while few had the confidence to communicate effectively with customers on how to minimise the risks.
Marc Etches, chief executive of problem gambling charity GambleAware which published the research, said: “This is a loud wake-up call to the gambling industry. The voices in this report crystallise the challenge of delivering effective social responsibility on the front line.”
An ABB spokesman said they would “study the report for any further learnings for the whole gambling industry as we continually develop new responsible gambling initiatives in betting shops”.
ATR offers bookmaker ads
Bookmaker adverts are set to become more prominent on At The Races after the channel opened the door to spot advertising for the first time, with Ladbrokes Coral the first bookmakers to sign up.
Gambling firms had previously been limited to sponsoring specific programmes on the channel, but will now be permitted to broadcast during advertising breaks as well.
The move by ATR comes ahead of the government’s long-awaited review of the gambling industry, expected this month, which could include the potential restriction of bookmaker advertising on television before the 9pm watershed.
Tony Sweeney, commercial director at ATR, said: “We’ve always been looking at it [spot advertising] – there’s been no pressure from anyone to implement it until now.”
The new arrangement for ATR could potentially be short-lived should the government clamp down on bookmaker advertising. However, the broadcaster felt there was no need to hold back and would deal with any fallout from the gaming review as and when it happens.
“If it is decided that bookmaker advertising should be restricted in any shape or form then we will comply with the decision,” Sweeney added. “We have to make our decisions looking forward and not on what may or may not be happening in the short or medium term.”