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Scotbet Chairman criticises over-regulation of high street bookmakers

John Heaton, Scotbet

John Heaton, Chairman of Scotbet, has called upon the Scottish government to ‘strike a balance that respects the right of punters to spend their leisure time and money as they choose, while protecting the small number who get into difficulty’.

Writing a column in The Scotsman, he cited the perceived problem of gambling addiction as a major reason for the increased regulation, higher taxes and introduction of full business rates that has forced over 300 high street betting shops to close in the UK over the last two years, which includes 25 for Scotbet.

Heaton also suggested that new measures introduced to tackle problem gambling across the industry, which includes the introduction of GambleAware Week, new alerts on gaming machines, restrictions on advertising and a nationwide multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, has moved high street bookies to the ‘forefront of responsible gambling’.

“Judging by the tone of some political debate, you might imagine that Scotland has a growing problem with gambling addiction. It doesn’t. The Scottish Government’s own figures show that problem gambling fell to 0.7 per cent in 2015 and is now lower than in 2012. That’s lower than the international average, and much lower than comparative figures for alcohol misuse (26%) and adult obesity (29%).

“Our industry supports more than 5,000 jobs in Scotland, many of them women and older people. At a time when the high street is struggling, we continue to invest in our town centres, contributing more than £110 million in taxes and business rates – an average of £112,000 for every shop.”

Finally, Heaton responded to the ‘myth’ that Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) have fuelled gambling addiction in the UK, by saying that the level of problem gambling has remained consistent at around 1% for the 15 years that they have been present in betting shops. The average loss on a FOBT in a single session is around £6 and an average session lasts under 9 minutes.

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