The UK bookmaking industry is at something of a crossroads. It has been hit by a forceful political campaign that has resulted in tax hikes and increased regulation. But could it have avoided it?
While the recent move by government to tighten controls on fixed odds betting terminals has quietened the storm for now, most observers expect the Labour Party (probably in coalition with the Liberal Democrats) to resume efforts to curb the industry if they win the next general election in May 2015, as many political commentators predict.
For now, the details need to be thrashed out as to how the government’s new rules are implemented. For example, if bookmakers are required to implement cards for account-based machine play, will the government be happy with loyalty cards that encourage play in addition to just tracking players?
These negotiations need to be handled delicately. Until now, government/political relations is not something the bookmaking industry has been particularly good at. If you speak to almost anyone at the big three bookmakers, they will argue the industry has been hit by a political storm that was beyond its control. If you speak to any political or public affairs consultant, they will tell you the industry has completely failed in this arena. So what is the truth of the matter?