Operators who have only donated nominal amounts to GambleAware for research, education and treatment would have been better not bothering, according to William Hill Group CEO Philp Bowcock.
Speaking at World GES in Barcelona, Bowcock touched on this week’s announcement from the UK’s biggest operators to increase the amount of money they provide to GambleAware by a factor of ten, but also referenced Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson’s criticisms of those operators who are only providing small amounts.
He said: “There are a lot of organisations out there who are not doing anything and that really does not help our industry at all. But you are better off not putting anything in at all rather than giving £1 or £5.
“Our idea with this week’s announcement is to get on the front foot on the issue.”
Bowcock suggested that UK gambling laws had been ‘too libertarian’ and now the pendulum was swinging back the other way as more restrictions come in, such as the reduction in stakes for FOBTs.
Bowcock also underlined the grim outlook for UK retail on the back of those restrictions. “There’s no doubt there will be significant closures of shops across the industry and it will be in four figures.”
However, William Hill’s leader underlines that there is still a future for betting shops, even as customers continue their digital migration. “Retail will always be there. There is a social element to retail that you don’t get anywhere else. In the US retail is a real social event. People like to go and watch games together. It’s the same in the UK to an extent.”
William Hill has been one of the more successful European brands in the US market deregulation of betting, but Bowcock warned that it ‘will be a marathon not a sprint’ in the country. He highlighted the need for a ‘largely American’ operational team and added the more proprietary technology that a company has, the better.
The need for diversification from the UK market is still high on Bowcock’s agenda, with last year’s purchase of Mr Green giving the firm an enhanced footprint in Scandinavia. “M&A has to be on the radar and it has to be on the radar for many organisations,” he said, suggesting that technology has to be an element of that activity. He also cited Latin America as an interesting market for potential growth.