Bookies lifted by relief over gaming curbs

Oliver Smith
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INVESTORS in high street bookmakers breathed a sigh of relief yesterday after new measures to curb gambling did not go as far as expected.

Shares in William Hill and Ladbrokes rose after the government unveiled plans to let local authorities block new betting shops opening up on high streets and forcing bookmakers to keep track of gamblers spending more than £50 on betting machines.

“The government wants to make sure the industry is putting player protection and social responsibility at the heart of their businesses,” said department for culture, media and sport minister Helen Grant.

Ladbrokes shares leapt 6.9 per cent to 153.3p, despite the bookmaker announcing store closures along with disappointing first quarter results, and William Hill rose 2.16 per cent to 354.7p per share.

Paddy Power, whose shares rose 1.5 per cent, called the changes unnecessary and the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) slammed the new rules as being based on scaremongering rather than facts.

“The proposed changes to the way customers are able to stake more than £50 will impose extra costs on the industry while there is no evidence to show that restricting B2 stakes will do anything to minimise problem gambling,” said ABB chief Dirk Vennix.

Ladbrokes first quarter results, which saw revenues decline 2.3 per cent and profits plummet 51 per cent to £18.4m, included plans to review additional store closures on top of 24 betting shops it has already closed this year.