Mr B: The Truth About Gaming Machines

| March 13, 2015 | Reply

I take it as read that as members of The Betting Rant you are serious about your betting…

I was wondering therefore about how many of you frequent the High Street bookmakers when putting your “hard earned” down on your selections. I myself prefer to bet online, but those of you who do use the High Street cannot have failed to notice four electronic cabinets dotted around the shop. Yes I’m talking about gaming machines!!

As a betting shop manager my whole working day revolves around these things. From switching them on in the morning, keeping the screens smudge free, emptying them throughout the day and last thing at night. In our new Training Manuals for new starters there are more pages dedicated to these machines than there are to how much £10 on a 15/8 shot returns or the workings of a Lucky 15. And that is why the betting shops of today are manned by staff who don’t have a Scooby, therefore driving more and more punters to bet online.

So how important are these machines to the betting industry?

Well, I do not want to give you figures for all 8700 of the UK’s betting shops, but in an attempt to show you the importance of gaming machines to the industry, what I will do is give you the figures for the shop I managed in 2014 (a sacking offence by the way!)

In 2014 my shop took £1.4m (just under £27000/wk) over the counter and kept about £220,000 which equates to a 15.7% profit margin…

Total turnover for all four of my gaming machines was about £3.1m (about £60,000/wk) and I kept £174,000 of that… Yes you read that right, £174,000 profit in ONE shop from gaming machines, from a turnover of twice what I took over the counter.

THAT’S HOW IMPORTANT GAMING MACHINES ARE TO THE INDUSTRY!

And that is why the bookmakers are running scared of any government restrictions around gaming machines.

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In an attempt to stave off any more restrictions, Ladbrokes, William Hill, Corals and Paddy Power have formed The Senet Group to oversee Responsible Gambling Standards. That’s a bit like the police making themselves responsible for police brutality! Why we need The Senet Group is beyond me when we already have The Gambling Commission. It’s all about appeasing the government in my opinion.

Senet Group Members are currently rolling out training courses for staff around gaming machines. Any customer wanting to stake £50 or more per spin on roulette will have to sign up to the ‘Linked Card’… sort of an account card to insert into the machines before playing.

This looks like we are being “responsible” as operators but I can assure you that this is not the case. Anyone who has a Linked Card will be offered free spins and other promotions when they insert their card. So we are targeting our highest staking customers and the players who are more likely to have gambling issues with all kinds of incentives and freebies.

And what of the shop staff these days? Well we spend our days doing “Responsible Gambling Interactions” with any customer who shows signs of stress around playing the machines. That’s right… we could have a guy losing his wages in one of our machines, kicking and punching it and at times even spitting on them. It is our role these days to offer leaflets and advice on Self Exclusion from our shops. We then process a report through our EPoS System which goes to our Area Manager.

A few months ago a female Deputy Manager aged 28 processed one such report after being seriously verbally abused by a customer who had lost £300 on roulette. The Area Manager rang her the following day to tell her off for putting bad language in the report because the reports are forwarded to the Gambling Commission. I think that says everything about where our company’s loyalties lie.

As a shop Manager my advice is this…

By all means use the High Street Bookmakers for your betting needs. Do NOT be tempted to insert any cash into the gaming machines… do NOT participate in the monthly tournaments that are promoted in shop, usually on a weekend, our busiest time of the week (staff hate these tournaments). And most importantly, enjoy your betting.

If you have any questions around gaming machines, or if there is any other betting matter you wish me to cover as a Shop Manager please do not hesitate to contact me through Matt.

Until next time, happy punting.

Mr.B

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