ABB AGM - Expect radical measures from the review

ABB AGM - Expect radical measures from the review

Thursday, March 23, 2017 Posted by Sam Cooke
The Association of British Bookmakers' annual general meeting took place this week

The latest annual general meeting of the Association of British Bookmakers took place in Millbank Tower this week and in addition to the expected look at FOBTs and the impending review, one significant focus of the meeting was the precarious state of independent retail bookmakers.

The ABB Chairman Paul Darling OBE QC opened the meeting and discussed this most salient point; he spoke of the very serious threat of a large number of shops closing and that independent bookmakers are far more vulnerable. He commented: “In my view they are community hubs, they’re a key part of employment in local communities just as they are a place of vibrancy and an important opportunity to socialise for many customers.”

Looking ahead to the next 12 months Darling stated that as an industry we must band together and that five things are important: to be responsible, compassionate, pro-active, strong and intellectually rigorous. On the final point Darling was referring to the need to ensure an evidence based approach to all claims about betting and social responsibility.

The guest speakers at this AGM were Tim Miller, Executive Director at the Gambling Commission and Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP. Whittingdale, the MP for Maldon, opened his talk expressing his commitment to the betting industry and belief in its validity as an entertainment sector. He said: “You provide enjoyment to a large number of people and this is too often forgotten.”

He told the story of how betting on the racing has provided his mother with a great deal of joy in her life, and noted his frustration at how the government has always viewed betting in a certain light of something which is permissible but undesirable. As for the forthcoming government review on gambling and social responsibility, which is expected in April, he suggested that Tracey Crouch is not a fan of FOBTs and that he expects ‘proposals for significant change’ and urged the industry to “brace yourself for radical measures.”

ABB Chief Executive Malcolm George also gave a speech ahead and praised a number of individuals following the government’s verdict that the industry is low risk when it comes to money laundering. He said that despite this “we can’t take our eye off the ball” on this area. George also calmly reminded the government that an evidence based approach is key and spoke on how the industry has endured a tough year of press including what he deemed unnecessary attacks from certain sources.

As to the independent sector he promised: “The ABB takes this threat very seriously indeed, as the independents will likely bear the brunt of any extreme measures.” Continuing this point George said that the whole discussion of problem gambling and FOBTs needs to shift away from a focus on machines to a wider consideration of problem gambling as a whole.

There will be a piece on Totally Gaming next week on the speech made by Tim Miller of the Gambling Commission.

Totally Gaming says: This annual general meeting featured the expected tone of concern with the impending gambling review. Whittingdale’s attendance, comments and genuine support for the industry was reassuring, but whether his views are widely shared by his fellow members of parliament is far from certain. The meeting also confirmed that it is undoubtedly the independent retail bookmakers that are most at risk from the outcome of this review.

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