In December, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) released a report which claimed to show that there are far more bookmakers per person in poorer areas of England than richer ones.
On 11 April the bookmakers hit back. The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) released the findings from a report carried out on their behalf by the Local Data Company, claiming to prove the opposite.
The ABB research suggests that areas with highest levels of deprivation have the lowest number of betting shops (17%), while least deprived areas have the most (35%). Furthermore, it claims that "62% of betting shops are in areas with lower than average deprivation".
Dirk Vennix, chief executive of the ABB, said: "The betting industry does not target the poor and the vulnerable. It never has, and it never will. This report should help dispel some damaging myths propagated by those trying to demonise and toxify our industry."
Conversely, the CFG report claimed that, in the 55 most deprived boroughs of the country, there were 2,691 betting shops whereas, in the richest districts, containing the same population, there were 1,258 bookmakers.
A spokesperson for the CFG said: “The bookmakers can produce as many misleading reports as they like by manipulating data but all people need to do is walk down their high street to know that the proliferation of betting shops is real. It is happening in our most deprived areas and it’s driven by fixed odds betting terminals – the crack cocaine of gambling.”
Adrian Parkinson, campaign consultant for the CFG, told Gambling Insider it was difficult to assess the reasons for the difference in viewpoints as the ABB’s full report does not yet appear to have been published.
He said however that from the methodology they have published, it looks like the areas analysed are retail and town centres. He said these are not representative of the town or area as a whole as they are likely to be less densely populated and residents are likely to be richer, due to the higher value of property that a central area attracts.
According to the ABB: "The report finds no evidence that the industry targets the poorest people. Analysis of town populations, split by socio-economic group, shows no difference per head of population between the number of betting shops in ABC1 areas and the number in C2DE areas."
This contrasts with a report by the National Centre for Social Research, released in November 2011, which concluded that areas with a lot of gambling machines are more likely to have high unemployment and a population with low incomes.
The ABB research continues: "The expansion in the number of high street bookmakers is much less aggressive than has been widely reported. In 2013, the number of shops increased by just 1.3%, compared to growth rates of over 3% in the number of pawnbrokers, coffee shops and convenience stores on British high streets. In total, bookies account for just 1.7% of all live retail units in Britain."
These figures do not seem to have been disputed, however the ABB compare bookmakers to other types of shops whose numbers are growing, rather than the retail sector as a whole.
The CFG claim that the ABB have a history of producing misleading reports. Research published this month, conducted by NERA economic consulting on behalf of the Campaign, concludes that aspects of an ABB report on the impact of a reduction in fixed odds betting terminals' maximum stakes on jobs were "seriously flawed".