Jack Brereton MP is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South. This is a sponsored post by the Betting and Gaming Council.
A few weeks ago, my fellow Stoke-on-Trent MPs and I were pleased to visit bet365’s headquarters in the city. It was an enjoyable occasion and a useful reminder of the huge economic contribution that the betting giant makes to our constituencies.
In all, the family-owned company employs over 4,500 staff in Stoke-on-Trent. These are high-skilled, good quality – jobs – providing excellent long-term career opportunities for families across the area.
In turn, they spend money in shops and other businesses, helping to boost the local economy to the tune of £390 million a year. In a city where the average wage level is over £80 a week less than the national average, the skilled jobs and the investment it attracts is unmatched. And as an example of the Government’s levelling up agenda in action, it’s pretty hard to beat.
But it’s not just about jobs, important as they are. bet365 has also donated £531 million to the Denise Coates Foundation, enabling it to support local, national and international UK-registered charities.
The company’s ownership of Stoke City has seen season tickets frozen for several years and free away travel provided for the club’s supporters. Meanwhile, the Stoke City Community Trust carries out a range of programmes, many of which I’ve seen first-hand. This includes a college community education football scheme, support to schools encourage participation of young people in sport and the Every Player Counts disability initiative.
It should also not be forgotten that bet365 and its founders are the highest taxpayers in the UK, paying some £614.6 million to the Treasury in 2019/20 – money which will have helped fund vital public services like health and education, not just in Stoke-on-Trent but across the whole country.
bet365 is a great example of how a well-regulated betting and gaming industry can play a vital role in the economic health of the nation. According to a report by EY, in 2019 members of the Betting and Gaming Council supported 119,000 jobs, generated £4.5 billion in tax and contributed £7.7 billion to the economy in gross value added. And just last month, BGC members pledged to create 5,000 apprenticeships by 2025.
As the Government’s Gambling Review continues – something which I strongly support as an opportunity to raise standards – it’s important for Ministers to bear in mind this economic contribution and do nothing to put the industry’s competitiveness at risk.
It’s not all about pounds, shillings and pence, of course. I am acutely aware of the importance of safer gambling, and believe the regulated industry has taken great strides in recent years to address this issue. bet365 has been at the forefront of this work in raising the bar for high standards within the sector. There is still of course more to do, but compare the approach of licensed operators to that of the illegal, online black market.
The ‘Take Time To Think’ campaign recently launched by the BGC highlights the range of safer gambling tools which are offered by their members, such as the ability to set deposit limits, take time outs and self-exclude. None of these are provided in the black market.
Evidence from abroad shows that unlicensed gambling sites stand to benefit when the regulated sector is uncompetitive, using their unscrupulous means to target the most vulnerable.In Norway, where there is a state monopoly, the black marketaccounts for 66 per cent of all money staked; in Bulgaria,which has a higher effective tax rate, the black market accounts for 47 cent of all money staked; and in Italy, where betting advertising is banned, the black market accounts for 23 per cent of all money staked.
And we can’t afford to be complacent in this country. According to a report by PwC, the amount of money staked with unlicensed operators in the UK doubled from £1.4 billion in 2018 to £2.8 billion in 2020, while the number of customers using unlicensed websites increased from 210,000 to 460,000.
If you’ll pardon the pun, there’s a lot at stake when the Government publishes its White Paper in the coming months. While change is necessary to further the work already started by those leading the sector, nothing should be done which puts at risk the continued success of the regulated industry – and the vital revenues it provides to the Exchequer.