UK bookmakers have reacted to yesterday’s government announcement which let local authorities limit the number of betting shops on Britain’s high streets. Betting shops will now be treated differently to other UK retailers, as betting shop planning applications will be subject to far more scrutiny by local authorities.
Industry reaction to the announcement has garnered a mixed response by UK bookmakers. The announcement could be seen as good news for some bookmakers, including William Hill and Ladbrokes, who have a substantial retail portfolio and announced this year that they would look to close some of their outlets.
William Hill chief executive, Ralph Topping, said the changes represented a “balanced response to concerns about clustering and fixed-odds games”.
However the announcement on planning triggered outrage from Paddy Power, who are seeking to expand operationa in Britain. The bookmaker had outlined plans to rival Ladbrokes and William Hill presence on UK high streets. Andy McCue, Head of Retail at Paddy Power commented on the announcement:
“These proposed planning reforms are wholly unnecessary and will reduce competition in a sector with betting shop numbers already in decline: so far in 2014, 150 betting shop closures have been announced, with many more expected.
“In a market where the Big 4 incumbents control 90pc of the market and openly welcome planning restrictions, challenger brands like Paddy Power will be prevented from offering choice and value to consumers.”
He further added: “The proposed planning changes are a fudge not a fix and pre-empt an evidence based approach to addressing concerns about fixed odds betting terminals.”
Business Analysts BNP Paribas described the announcement as a “best case” scenario for William Hill and Ladbrokes. Shares in both William Hill and Ladbrokes were trading up sharply following the Government’s announcement at lunchtime on Wednesday.