Done: draconian limit on machines would be damaging

Fred Done: thinks gaming machine changes would hit bookmakers hard

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker ( Done: high street betting shops under threat
By Bill Barber 7:27AM 10 JAN 2017

BETFRED boss Fred Done has described the increasing pressure on gaming machines as "the biggest single threat to the future of the high street betting shop" he has known in 50 years, with disastrous repercussions for racing.

Done claimed draconian action to limit stakes on the machines, also known as fixed-odds betting terminals or FOBTs, would leave the racing industry irretrievably damaged.

Pressure from politicians and the media over the machines and their alleged link to problem gambling has been mounting and the government last year announced a review examining the subject.

Campaigners have called for the maximum stake on the machines, which is currently £100, to be slashed to as little as £2, a move the betting industry has claimed would lead to thousands of betting shops closing.

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In an open letter, Done – who this year celebrates half a century as a bookmaker – said the sector was "under siege because of the moral panic surrounding fixed-odds betting terminals".

Done said social responsibility work done by the industry had struck the right balance between prevention of harm and freedom of choice and questioned whether some of those campaigning against the machines were doing so out of vested interests.

'Balanced and evidence-based'

He also said he hoped the government would not be swayed by the "myths" surrounding the machines.

"Given the huge significance of the issues that are at stake here, the debate concerning the future of FOBTs in high street betting shops should be both balanced and evidence-based," he said.

"And yet recent press coverage in the build up to the Triennial Review has regrettably been categorised by alarmist rhetoric and misleading sound bites."

Done said Betfred had carried out modelling on his then 1,360-strong betting shop estate before the purchase of 322 shops from Ladbrokes and Coral in the autumn.

He said a reduction in gaming machine stakes to £2 would make 660 of those shops loss-making overnight, "resulting in me having to make a decision to close them". Done said that would result in at least 3,300 employees being made redundant.

He added: "This is without doubt the biggest threat to the high street betting shop I have faced during my 50 years in business as a bookmaker."

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