John Spellar MP: Our economy needs the betting and gaming industry
The Gambling White Paper is an opportunity to safeguard a £7.1 billion Great British success story.
As the IMF issues a grim warning of a worldwide recession backing British business and protecting British jobs is vital to the success of our economy. Unfortunately this Government has shown that it is all too willing to turn its back on British business whether that is in manufacturing, technology or leisure and hospitality. This failure to back British business has included handing contracts to build ships to overseas companies, UK passports being printed in Poland and now the Government may be poised to throw open the gates to the black market in betting and gaming.
A new report from EY has shown that the betting and gaming industry is a Great British success story. An industry that is expanding overseas while investing in high tech, high skilled jobs in the UK.
This industry supports over 20,000 jobs in the West Midlands alone. In total, the regulated betting and gaming sector supports a staggering 110,000 jobs, contributes £7.1bn to the economy and generates £4.2bn in taxes for the Treasury annually.
One of these British success stories is Bet365 who are developing cutting-edge technology, with over 4,500 staff employed in Stoke-on-Trent, the biggest private sector employer there. These highly skilled, high-quality jobs provide excellent long-term career opportunities for families across the area.
The EY report also demonstrates the vastness of the sector, spanning bookies on hard-pressed high streets, tourism-boosting casinos in major cities and is a global high-tech powerhouse industry. There is potential for more growth, with estimates suggesting the industry will generate 15,000 tech jobs in the next five years alone.
The figures from EY also confirm what we already knew, many people enjoy a flutter in a safe and responsible way. Every month 22.5 million adults in the UK enjoy a game of bingo, bet on football, horses, greyhounds and other sports. Problem gambling rates are also among the lowest in Europe at 0.3 per cent, according to the independent regulator.
It is not only on high streets that the industry contributes, horseracing benefits from the industry to the tune of £350m through sponsorship, media rights and betting levy payments. They also contribute at least £40m a year to the English Football League and its clubs, more than £10m to darts and snooker and over £2.5m for rugby league.
This is a sector that needs some certainty and the Government need to ensure that any changes that it is proposing in a new Gambling White Paper are sensible and proportionate, not suggestions such as imposing blanket affordability checks at very low levels. This will only fuel the growth of the lucrative and unregulated black market, which has none of the safer gambling measures in place in the regulated market and contributes nothing to the UK in terms of jobs, taxation or investment in the sports we all love.
We already have evidence that this is bound to happen, European countries that have applied tough sanctions on betting, including restrictions on stakes, blanket affordability checks and curbs on advertising, have witnessed an increase in black market betting. Norway’s black market now accounts for over 66 per cent of all money staked, in France it is 57 per cent, while in In Italy 23 per cent of money bet is on illicit sites.
At a time when the public finances are in disarray, the country cannot afford for thousands of punters to be heading offshore to the black market. Any money spent there will not contribute to the UK economy nor funding our essential public services.
We cannot have this uncertainty for such a large and successful industry going forward. That is why the Government need to get on with publishing the Gambling White Paper, providing protections where they are needed but must not put at risk yet another British industry.