In conversation with Nick Rust, the Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Association (BHA), Ladbrokes Coral CEO Jim Mullen has again addressed concerns regarding this October’s industry review by the UK government of FOBTs wagering levels and advertising standards.
As leader of the UK’s biggest retail bookmaker, Mullen admits to the Racing Post, that he has “probably invested far too much thinking time” on the outcome of the pending review. From Mullen’s perspective, he details that it is a strange time for bookmakers, in which the industry has been made a public enemy by the media following a maelstrom of bad headlines.
“We’re now in ‘burn the witch’ territory,” Mullen tells the Racing Post. “That’s where we are, verging on cabbages and heads in stocks.”
Out of the UK’s ‘Big 4’ retail betting operators (Ladbrokes, Coral, William & Betfred), Mullen has been the most vocal leader urging ministers for a ‘fair and balanced’ review of industry FOBTs wagering.
Last March, Mullen detailed to UK media that a significant lowering FOBTs max-bet wagers (currently at £100) would likely wipeout Ladbrokes Coral retail presence within London, in which it operates 1,800 betting shops employing 9,000 staff.
“The business side is if there is a cut in stakes based on no evidence, putting aside how morally incorrect that it is, then we’re putting our people’s jobs at risk,” Mullen states. “I just can’t-do that and go to sleep at night, particularly if I’ve been sitting across the table from someone who might want to do this just because ‘something has to be done’.”
Adding further woes for industry leadership, are the increased political concerns relating to industry advertising practices and social responsibility standards which have been well publicised this September.
With regards to advertising, Mullen states that Ladbrokes Coral is currently working with the UK Gambling Commission in improving promotional messaging standards used by its brands and marketing partners (media owners and affiliates).
Ladbrokes Coral CEO will not be drawn into the gambling social responsibility debate, which hit national headlines this August following online rival 888’s compliance failures which resulted in a record £7.8 million UKGC fine.
“We don’t sit here and judge any of our competitors, and I wouldn’t comment on 888 because we have to be careful about our own offers. But it’s an ongoing journey for our business to be more responsible and clearer in how we engage with the public. We welcome that.”
Instead, Mullen states that industry stakeholders are better off focusing on creating ‘responsible businesses’, which can respond to times of political uncertainty, representing the fair-side of betting as a consumer proposition.