February 14, 2014 6:26 pm

Bookmakers under pressure as betting machines research stepped up

Machines provide half of betting shop revenues©Bloomberg

Machines provide half of betting shop revenues

Pressure on bookmakers over their lucrative high street digital betting machines has intensified after researchers announced a much bigger investigation of their potential to harm.

The machines’ popularity has made them a cash cow for bookmakers such as William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral, providing them with half their betting shop revenues.

But cross-party concern on a possible link to gambling addiction could result in stricter regulations on the speed of play and size of stakes, which can be as high as £300 a minute.

The government is weighing restrictions on the use of these betting machines but that depends on academic research, which is being stepped up in response to political pressure.

The charity Responsible Gambling Trust, which is co-ordinating the research, announced that it was expanding the work to include cognitive and physiological studies of player, and to examine industry data to identify addictive behaviour among customers. It will also survey machine users.

The research will examine whether clusters of betting shops in some areas influence player responses.

The Labour party has highlighted the proliferation of betting shops in poor areas.

Marc Etches, RGT chief executive, said: “The research the RGT is commissioning is groundbreaking and will involve a number of internationally recognised experts who will seek to consider all aspects of this issue, from the way people play machines to where they are located.”

William Hill said it always collaborated with the RGT to supply data. “We have long said that more research on the gambling industry is needed to ensure that government and local authorities have the necessary facts to make sensible decisions,” the company said.

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