UK Gambling Shops Miss Out as Online Grows

The global online gambling phenomenon is leading to many traditional betting firms in Britain fearing closure.

Certainly, in the UK data released by the Office for National Statistics has shown that on the whole betting shops are losing ground in high streets around the country. The ONS released the set of figures that cover data for a seven-year period ending at the end of 2017/beginning of 2018.

However, the data varies greatly from one area to another, with some areas remaining stable and others bucking the trend completely with large amounts of growth.

What is for sure, though, is that large swathes of betting shops have disappeared from the face of the UK, and the finger points squarely at the rise in online gambling for the demise of the high street bookie.

Industry insiders are blaming two elements on physical gambling premises closing down: firstly, the growth of online gambling and secondly, the rise in the cost of rent.

The data shows how the number of gambling venues opening and closing down can be associated with certain policy changes, including those introduced by the government.

A third of profit from online gambling

According to data released by the Gambling Commission, the gambling industry made profits of £13.9bn ($18.22bn) between October 2016 and September 2017, a third of which came from online gambling.

The chief executive of Gamble Aware has said they believe access to gambling on mobile devices is driving the move away from in-person gambling. Marc Etches, the organization’s chief executive said: “Retailing is moving from the high street to online, and gambling is no different. We are very concerned there are potentially no limits to the amount gamblers can lose online.”

Of the premises that are closing down, it is thought that around three-quarters of them are betting shops and the other quarter is split between amusement arcades and casinos.

The Association of British Bookmakers has said it believes the trouble faced by betting shops and other gambling venues is due to the maximum amount allowed to be gambled on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) being cut from £100 ($131) to £2 ($2.62) every 20 seconds.

Some markets remain steady

On the Isle of Wight the market has remained steady despite the shift towards online gambling, with the number of betting shops on the high street staying the same over the same period. The island’s shops are affected by the same rules on FOBTs. There are currently 25 gambling businesses on the island and, according to the ONS, the number has remained the same for the past seven years.

The Association of British Bookmakers said at the time the lowering of the limit on FOBTs was announced that it expected somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 high street betting venues to close across the country by 2020 as a direct result of the restriction.

Fixed odd betting terminals have been a highly contentious issue that the whole UK gambling industry has had its say on.

The number of in-person gambling venues has dropped by 4% since 2010 and there are 61 areas in the UK where there are now more betting shops than there were in the past.

The area that has seen the highest rise in the number of in-person venues on the high street is Harrow in north-west London, where there are now 80 shops compared to around 55 seven years ago.

The town that has been hit by the most closures is Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, where 10 of its 15 gambling venues have shut since 2017.

It looks like the trend may be more closely linked to local economies than wider government policies as a whole due to the wide variation between data from different places across the UK.

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