The Chairman of Scotbet, John Heaton claims that further regulation could have detrimental effects on the UK gambling industry.
In a piece published by The Scotsman, Heaton 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.”
Heaton acknowledges the UK and Scottish Government’s attempts to curb problem gambling. However, he claims that bookmakers should not be targeted as the sole culprit for the rise in number of problem gamblers among betting shop customers.
“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%).”
Heaton pointed out that across the UK over 300 betting shops have been closed over a two-year period, with Scotbet having to shut over 25 retail facilities over the past several years. Now, as the industry is likely to face further regulation, Heaton believes that more closures are inevitable.
He adds: “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 £110m in taxes and business rates – an average of £112,000 for every shop.”