Jim Armitage: So much for the Government’s clampdown on betting machines - the bookies are winners again

Outlook: The Government never really looked seriously concerned about the social problems of fixed-odds betting terminals

As every responsible father tells his son: the bookie always wins. Particularly when it comes to lobbying the Government against any legislation that may hurt their businesses. So it was with the widely leaked “reforms” of gambling released yesterday.

Where critics of the lose-£100-every-20-seconds betting machines had demanded that jackpots and stakes be reduced, the Government instead merely said the pace of the action should be slowed a little. How? By making players inform staff every time they intend to bet more than £50.

Will this have any impact at all on either the profits of the betting shops who run most of these things or the social harm that local MPs and pressure groups say they cause? Hardly. Punters, many of them with serious gambling problems, will still be able to stake those £100 bets; it’s just that they’ll have to nip up to the desk to pay over the counter rather than sticking their notes directly in the slot.

What I predict is this: first, staff in betting shops – many of whom are women alone late at night in shops habituated by desperate men losing money – will face even more aggro.

Second, these predominantly low-wage workers will be implicitly encouraged not to stop the gamblers pouring their wages into their shops’ takings. As William Hill helpfully pointed out in its last-minute lobbying last week, the hundreds of people it is sacking as a result of increased taxes on these machines in the Budget are mostly young folks who will struggle to get work elsewhere. Faced with such a bleak employment prognosis, those still employed are hardly likely to don vicar’s garb and tell their customers to put away their wallets.

The trade body for the industry grimly said that thousands of jobs were now at risk. Nonsense. If anything, betting shops may have to re-employ staff they sacked as they rolled out the automated casino machines. Not that people will flock back to over-the-counter betting on the horses, but extra workers will now be needed to authorise and take the cash from the big rollers on the betting machines.

The Government has been pretty clever, I’d say. It never really looked seriously concerned about the social problems of fixed-odds betting terminals, but it has managed to squeeze more tax out of the problem and win a few pre-election headlines about how it is “clamping down”.

The best way to judge the likely outcome of an event, be it a race, a match, or a general election for that matter, is in the price the bookies are offering in advance. In the City, the bookies are called stockbrokers, their odds the share prices. What were they quoting on the gambling giants last night? William Hill: up 5 per cent, Ladbrokes (the most reliant on these machines): up 7 per cent. Some clampdown.

When big business rejected barbarism

 It is a perverse and macabre turn of events that sees a man die a slow and excruciating death as the result of the well-meaning efforts of others. That was the fate of Clayton Lockett, whose botched execution in Oklahoma this week was the indirect result of European pharmaceuticals firms refusing to supply their wares to end, rather than preserve life.

Britain’s Hikma Pharmaceuticals was last in a line of companies horrified to learn that its barbiturates were being used at the gurney, curbing their sale to Arkansas last year.

The short-term outcome of the barely reported blockade by European companies has been for US prisons to turn to back-street pharmacies for their poisons, with catastrophic effects. But they are surely outweighed by the value of the message these Western businesses are sending America: you are alone among civilised nations in this barbarism.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
Drinking - often heavily - is a running theme throughout HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation
food + drink
News
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living