Former William Hill CEO Comments on Paddy Power Betfair CEO’s Support for FOBTs Crackdown

News emerged last week that Paddy Power CEO Breon Corcoran was backing a reduction of the maximum stake accepted by the highly demonized fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to just £10 or even less. Mr. Corcoran’s comments on the matter expectedly drew criticism from other industry representatives and former William Hill Ralph Topping was among those to voice their opinion.

The Paddy Power Betfair executive has reportedly sent a letter to UK Sports Minister Tracey Crouch to express his support for the move. If the maximum stake is indeed reduced, as it is expected, UK’s retail industry will suffer a heavy blow as it has grown extremely dependent on revenue from FOBTs.

Gambling operators Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill, which currently operate UK’s largest chains of betting shops and are therefore the largest stakeholders in the retail portion of the nation’s gambling industry, could lose hundreds of millions of pound depending on the scale of the pending crackdown.

Mr. Corcoran’s support for a massive clampdown on the industry quite expectedly raised eyebrows, particularly given the fact that Paddy Power Betfair, too, operates betting shops and FOBTs across the UK.

Shortly after Mr. Corcoran’s comments were published, rival Ladbrokes Coral responded to them by suggesting that these could be seen as “opportunistic commercialism”. Generally speaking, the Paddy Power Betfair CEO pointed out that the FOBTs problem has become “so toxic” that only a crackdown on the controversial machines could appease campaigners and alleviate increasing “societal concerns” about the addictiveness of the high-speed, high-stakes gaming machines.

Even though Paddy Power Betfair will, too, see a decrease in its UK retail revenue, the company will not be as severely hit as its industry competitors Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill. What is more, the company has a significant advantage over the latter two, as it manages quite successful online business.

As mentioned above, Mr. Corcoran’s comments were not received very positively by other industry representatives, as well. Ralph Topping, a former William Hill CEO, used his LinkedIn profile to express his own opinion on the matter and here are some highlights from his post.

Is the Support for FOBTs Crackdown a Manifestation of Mr. Corcoran’s Opportunism?

Mr. Topping headed William Hill from 2008 through 2014, when he was replaced by James Henderson. The former gambling executive compared Mr. Corcoran’s latest actions to what “most brilliant boy in the final year at school” would do when he discovers “the adrenaline rush of being naughty”.

Mr. Topping pointed out that while the Paddy Power Betfair CEO will not win industry friends by supporting a move that would shake the industry, he was trying to do what he considered the best for his company. And Mr. Corcoran is paid to do exactly that, the former William Hill emphasized in his post.

If the UK Government indeed cracks down on FOBTs and reduces the maximum stake significantly, this would mean that the Paddy Power Betfair executive has seized a great opportunity to gain advantage for his company over its competitors, Mr. Topping believes.

The former gambling executive also expressed his opinion on whether a clampdown indeed should be launched by saying that a move of this kind would affect the lives of “many thousands of people at the sharp end of the industry”, among an array of other impacts.

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