Independent Bookmaker JenningsBet Joins Criticism over Paddy Power Betfair CEO’s Support for FOBTs Crackdown

While UK bookmakers and anti-FOBTs campaigners have been the ultimate rivals in the ongoing highly publicized war surrounding the gaming machines, these have also managed to stir controversy within the sector.

In a recent letter by Paddy Power Betfair CEO Breon Corcoran addressed to UK Sports Minister Tracey Crouch the gambling executive wrote that his company would welcome a reduction in the maximum stakes FOBTs accept. The letter was received very badly by other industry stakeholders, who attacked Mr. Corcoran for trying to earn commercial benefits for his company at a time when the UK gambling industry was preparing for one of the most severe regulatory blows it has ever received.

Gambling operator Ladbrokes Coral and former William Hill CEO Ralph Topping vocally criticized the Paddy Power Betfair CEO for trying to mask his opportunism as social responsibility.

The war of words has most recently been joined by Greg Knight, the Managing Director of independent bookmaker JenningsBet. In a letter to Ms. Crouch and Culture Minister Karen Bradley, Mr. Knight accused Mr. Corcoran of trying to undermine the nation’s retail betting industry.

Mr. Corcoran’s Call for Crackdown

In his letter, the Paddy Power Betfair CEO wrote that his company would support a massive reduction of the maximum FOBTs stake to £10 or less from £100. The gambling executive pointed out that the broadly discussed gaming machines issue has become “so toxic” that only the introduction of tougher regulations would solve it in a manner that would alleviate social concerns.

Paddy Power Betfair currently operates hundreds of betting shops around the UK, but it has also developed a successful online gambling business. Mr. Corcoran said that their retail business would be able to survive through a reduction of the maximum stake to £10 and that other bookmakers will, too, be able to endure a crackdown of this scale.

Ladbrokes Coral, which currently operates the largest chain of betting shops in the UK, reacted to Mr. Corcoran’s letter with great criticism, calling his comments “opportunistic commercialism”. While Ladbrokes Coral has been operating a highly profitable UK retail business, it has been struggling to establish itself in the online space. Being the owner of the largest number of FOBTs in the UK, the company fears that it will suffer massive losses from any considerable reduction in the maximum stake.

As mentioned above, Mr. Topping, a former William Hill CEO, also joined the wave of criticism against the Paddy Power Betfair CEO by saying that while he might have been doing what was best for his company, he was certainly not helping the industry.

JenningsBet Enters the War of Words

In his own letter to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, Mr. Knight wrote that Mr. Corcoran was trying to undermine the retail sector for the benefit of his own company. JenningsBet is UK’s largest independent operator of betting shops.

The company currently manages 100 betting shops across the UK. Its Managing Director told Minister Crouch that he was “extremely concerned” that MPs might give Mr. Corcoran’s comments serious consideration and that this could impact the UK retail sector quite negatively, particularly the independent owners of retail businesses.

According to Mr. Knight, the Paddy Power Betfair CEO was trying to create a scenario in which his own company capitalizes on the demise of the independent sector. The JenningsBet Managing Director further pointed out that Paddy Power Betfair would also benefit from the imminent migration of retail customers to online gamblingin case of a massive FOBTs clampdown.

Mr. Knight used his letter to warn that Paddy Power Betfair was pursuing market domination by using the government’s triennial review of the gambling industry and the growing discontent with the way FOBTs have been regulated.

The JenningsBet official also explained that its larger rival was well-aware of the fact that independent bookmakers would struggle through the looming crackdown and that a number of people would lose their jobs as a result. The UK independent betting retail sector currently employs around 4,000 people, and the nation’s whole retail sector is employer of more than 40,000 people. Bookmakers have been warning that a reduction in the maximum stake would hit their profitability and would result in massive layoffs within the sector.

What’s Next for the UK Retail Betting Industry?

The government is due to release its triennial review of the nation’s gambling industry towards the end of October. The controversial fixed-odds betting terminals will be the main focus of the industry report and it is almost certain that MPs will introduce curbs to the way the machines are operated in betting shops.

The scope of the looming crackdown is yet to be revealed, but Minister Crouch has signaled on multiple occasions over the past year that they intend to reduce the maximum stake significantly.

The gaming machines, which generated gross gambling yield of more than £1.8 billion last year, have been under serious fire for their high-stakes, high-speed, and highly addictive nature. It has been for years now that campaigners have been calling for a reduction in the maximum stake that customers could place every 20 seconds, but a clampdown has never been initiated until now.

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