The North remembers - Sky Betting & Gaming's economic impact

The North remembers - Sky Betting & Gaming's economic impact

Tuesday, August 9, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
Sky Betting & Gaming has brought £126m to Leeds' GDP

The extent to which gambling operators benefit the wider communities and economies from which they spring is rarely a subject given an airing.

Aside from arguments used by high-street bookmakers about employment when they are defending their shop estates from the attacks of anti-FOBT campaigners, the sector rarely gets a mention in anything other than negative terms. It is particularly rare for online operators to make much of their economic or social impact, whether due to their offshore location or cultural sensitivities.

Hence why Sky Betting & Gaming’s recent efforts to quantify the company contribution to the economic well-being of its home base in Leeds stood out. The company initiated the move by commissioning Oxford Economics to conduct an economic impact report. The subsequent PR push saw numerous newspaper articles and features discussing how the company brought £126m of gross value added to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Leeds, equivalent to one-fifth of the total digital GVA for the city.

The effort was worthwhile, says Adam Smith, head of corporate communications at Sky Betting & Gaming, because it fulfilled two functions: talking about the company as an independent entity away from the corporate umbrella of Sky and second because it demonstrated the company’s central role in the digital economy of that part of Yorkshire.

“We knew we were one of the major tech companies in the region but couldn’t quantify it,” Smith told TotallyGaming.com. “Establishing exactly what our economic impact was gave us a great opportunity to remind everyone that we were a successful, independent company in our own right.

“Secondly, we wanted to demonstrate how important the tech sector is to Leeds, Sheffield and Yorkshire as a whole. As one of the bigger tech companies based here we wanted to shout about the opportunities there are here to build a career in the digital economy.”

The initiative was applauded by corporate reputation and social responsibility expert Joshua van Raalte, who said other businesses could learn lessons from what Sky betting & Gaming was attempting. “The Sky Bet report on its local impact is excellent, and I wish every business did this to prove their worth and contribution to the local community,” he told TotallyGaming.com. 

“While clearly there are PR benefits to this, Sky Bet should consider other activities that directly benefit local individuals and communities,” van Raalte added. “Betting companies typically have to work harder than other types of businesses to gain the trust and loyalty of people, so I would consider campaigns which addresses real community issues in order to further their good work.” 

Smith from Sky Betting & Gaming agreed that the industry could do more to press its case as a responsible corporate citizen that should do more to demonstrate its positive effects on the cities and towns where companies have sizeable operations.

“It is important that government realises our importance to the communities we are based in,” he said. “It’s something Bet365 have done well but we can all always do more. In a sector that can be based anywhere in the world politicians must keep the tax regime competitive and invest in the infrastructure and skills programmes that will allow and encourage tech companies to stay and grow in the UK.”

One specific area where Sky will be pressing the government is on the Northern Powerhouse initiative which has seen the Conservative government attempt to harness local government and businesses to promote the north as a region to challenge the economic predominance of the southeast in the UK. Said Smith: “We also want to see tangible evidence of the government’s commitment to the North – funding for transport projects to link up the Northern cities, proper devolution of skills funding, and above all, a competitive tax regime.”

Totally Gaming says: The initiative from Sky Betting & Gaming is undoubtedly a smart move, particularly given the current debates in the UK regarding the Northern Powerhouse. What is particularly noteworthy is Sky B&G’s attempt to tie the company’s success to that of its home base. As Van Raalte notes, betting companies have to work harder than most in this area and it will be interesting to see if more operators follow Sky Betting & Gaming’s example.

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