British bookmakers are suffering from rising costs and the VAT regime, despite portrayals of a highly profitable business, Global Betting and Gaming Consultants has charged.
The consultancy firm argues: "The media has had a lot of fun with the UK’s bookmakers recently. They have been blamed for locating shops in areas that exploit the poor; horse racing has complained bookmakers are not paying enough; the government wants to tax the punter at the point of consumption; and B2 machines [FOBTs] come in for endless criticism. The onslaught has been relentless.
"With all this anti-bookmaker sentiment around you would be forgiven for believing that the bookmakers have never had it so good, making vast profits off the backs of ordinary punters, and they richly deserve the kicking they were getting.
"But what is really odd is that, while the media is having us believe that bookmakers gave been coining it since they introduced FOBTs, the fact is that bookmakers’ profits are down substantially since 2007. Ladbrokes has seen a 61 percent decline in profits since 2007. William Hill has done better with a 36 percent decline since 2008 but they are still down," the firm says.
It goes on to ask: "If trading is difficult for the big firms what do you think it is like for the rest of the industry where fixed costs relative to revenue are higher? For the smaller bookmaker the situation is even worse.
"The industry is faced with a rising tide of costs. Bookmakers are exempt from VAT, so every invoice costs 20 percent more than if they were any other VAT-registered business. The cost of the horse racing [TV feeds] in betting shops has risen dramatically in recent years and is now unaffordable. Gambling and local authority licensing costs are extortionate.
"During those good years of 2006 and 2007 businesses were suckered into believing that chancellor Gordon Brown had abolished boom and bust. It was during those good times that executives paid too much to buy peace. They paid too much because the financial community wanted certainty. The cost of certainty has been paid through the profit and loss account."
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