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W


elcome to the new look


Betting Business interactive. Please wipe


your feet on the way in. Blood, sweat, tears and gallons of increasingly expensive ink have gone into this small reinvention; we hope you like it. But, more importantly, we hope it will be useful for your business.


The biggest addition is our new look B2B section, whichcontains the latest news and products from the industry’s suppliers - covering all sectors of the betting and online gaming business. We are also striving to continue providing the same news and analysis of the betting industry, but we have widened the net to also cover developments in the igaming arena. While we realise this might not be of interest to some of Betting Business’


traditional readership, any successful online bookmaker will either already be involved in this sector or be planning to enter it soon. The idea is to make Betting Business interactive an even more vital tool for the betting industry’s most progressive operators, be they online, offline or (as is increasingly the case) both.


T he betting


sector is coming off the back of a largely


successful


World Cup tournament, which has been tempered a little by some of the recent horseracing results. Hopefully, the football will have provided some cash reserves for smaller business who are struggling to overcome rising costs until things start looking up. While most of the financial hardship being experienced by the independent retail sector is being caused for regulatory rather than economic reasons, the recent recession has not helped and its timing has been atrocious for bookmakers coming to terms with the expense of the Gambling Act and racecourse media rights. However, the news from


William Hill’s Ralph Topping appears to be ‘hang in there’. While over the counter revenues at the firm are struggling, volumes have not dropped off in the same way. Topping is confident that once the man in the street has a bit more money in his pocket then the average bet will jump back up. In the meantime, if there has been no big slip in slippage and bookmakers have managed to introduce more profitable products, then either could be a big boost around the corner. Or around the next corner if some of the scaremongering about a ‘double-dip’ recession comes to pass.


B


ut there is life in the old dog yet. The emergence of Just a Bet in the north east is


a much welcome good news story for independents, which ironically comes partially from the ashes of the Pagebet estate. At a time when many


traditional bookmakers are facing the wall, the fact that some smaller


companies can still make a go of it is encouraging. The betting shop has changed beyond


recognition in the last ten years and it might be the case that smaller firms will have to change even more in order to reduce its costs. Many independents are weighing up the cost of running both SIS and Turf TV and coming to the conclusion that they can no longer afford to carry both channels, regardless of what the local opposition has got. Chisholm Bookmakers has been operating with a single channel for some years now, so it is demonstrably possible. However, if a bookmaker is to choose a channel at the moment, it will be SIS as even the Turf TV bosses admit that theirs is


currently a complementary service. If Turf TV can somehow supply a service which could stand alone in the betting shop, then the competition between the two services will really begin, which could finally see prices reduce rather than increase.


36 BettingBusinessInteractive • SEPTEMBER 2010


Dormant account issue could erupt


Why should sports get a punter’s money if he doesn’t collect it in a timely fashion? Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, discusses the latest gambling consultation paper.


CLIVE HAWKSWOOD FIRST PERSON


I


f I had a pound for every consultation paper that has been issued by the Gam- bling Commission and DCMS over the last three years I’d have enough to afford a Gam- bling Commission operator’s licence. It has felt at times as if we were swimming in a sea of papers that came out too frequently and quickly for the industry to address them all properly. However, the only thing worse than being con- sulted, is not being consulted and so it would be dangerous to moan about it too much. A topical case in point involves the contentious and hugely complicated issue of abandoned accounts as the government calls them, but which we would normally calls sleepers or dormant accounts.


In a nutshell, the govern- ment has given the go-ahead


for a review of unclaimed win- nings and deposits with an eye to somehow legislating to seize them and allocate the funds to support and sustain grassroots sport. The evolution of this idea is an unusual one in govern- ment circles even though it’s something that has been mooted for many years by people like David Ashforth in the Racing Post (although he envisaged the money going to good causes in the horseracing industry). It began of all places in the Liberal Democrat general election manifesto. It then appeared in the published coalition agreement docu- ment between the Conserva- tives and the Liberal Democrats. The review is being led by Don Foster MP, who has taken an active inter- est in the gambling industry


for many years. He is taking the work forward with the support of DCMS officials and so, as and when a formal consultation paper is issued, it will have official status. At the moment, they are gathering information and sounding out various indus- try sources such as ourselves and the ABB about the issues. Our hope is that this process will at least make them think twice before advocating any radical change to ministers later in the year. Unfortunately, it is one of those proposals that for an outsider looking in seems to tick all the right boxes. As someone said to me recently, it is a thought process that begins with ‘you never see a poor bookmaker’ and ends with sports getting money to which they have no legitimate entitlement.


This is not the place to highlight all of the flaws with this proposal, but suffice to say there are many of them. They range from practical questions about how a sleeper/dormant account/abandoned account is to be defined fairly and objectively, to more princi- pled issues which must be addressed such as (i) whether it is right to heap even more burdens on such a highly taxed and regulated industry; and (ii) even if there is a pot of money to be sequestrated, what is the rationale for giving


it to amateur sports and local sports projects.


On the last of these points,


grassroots sport is no doubt amongst a whole range of worthy causes across the country, but it has no direct relationship to the betting industry or to punters and, besides, isn’t support for that sort of thing exactly why the National Lottery was estab- lished and why it was given so many competitive advan- tages over the rest of the gambling industry?


And if the National Lottery is failing in that regard and the government feels the need to fill a funding gap, they could always divert a small proportion of the huge rev- enues received from gam- bling duties to do it rather than introduce what would effectively be an additional levy on betting operators, punters or both. There is no doubt that this policy originally appeared in the Liberal Democrat mani- festo with the best of inten- tions and it is vitally important that the wider betting indus- try does not respond, or be perceived to respond, unrea- sonably or dismissively, but it would be wrong for any system of this kind to be imposed by statute in a way which made it a compulsory obligation.


Our aim over the coming months must be to persuade the government of this.


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