Boom time in betting machines

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The Independent Online

A betting machine manufacturer is Britain's fastest-growing company, fuelling fears that the industry continues to expand at the expense of problem gamblers.

A betting machine manufacturer is Britain's fastest-growing company, fuelling fears that the industry continues to expand at the expense of problem gamblers.

A survey by Real Business magazine and private equity firm LDC found that Global Draw's sales reached £32m in 2003-04, which represents an annual growth rate of 308 per cent since 2000-01. Profits hit £16.7m last year.

The gambling industry has come under fire because of the boom in fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). A recent report by charity GamCare found that the use of FOBTs had set off a "dramatic" change in the habits of gamblers.

Global Draw managing director Steve Frater told Real Business that limits on FOBTs in gaming shops, introduced through an industry code of practice, had been beneficial.

"It made everyone focus on what was the best product to have in their shops and created a level playing field."

Apart from the exceptional growth at Global Draw, the survey shed some light on how entrepreneurs start out. It found that the 100 fastest-growing privately owned UK companies got up and running with an average investment of just £30,000 in their first year.

Despite such a small initial outlay, the 100 companies now have combined sales of nearly £4bn and employ 30,000 people. The survey measured growth over four years and did not include publicly listed companies or subsidiaries.

The editor of Real Business, Adam Leyland, said the top 100 companies, which had to have turnover of more than £5m and be profitable, came from a wide variety of sectors.

"You'd expect it to be full of dot-com and IT companies, yet no more than 10 per cent are in dot com or IT."

They included plastic-bottle manufacturers, potato wholesalers and petrol stations. There were also hedge funds, travel agents and gadget shops.

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