British Betting Shops Safer Than Food Stores, Clothes Shops and Pubs


Posted: August 11, 2014

Updated: June 4, 2017

A report by the British police suggests betting shops have among the lowest crime rates of all high street retailers.

After the scandals that broke out earlier this year, when people were blaming fixed-odds betting terminals for gambling addiction, money laundering, and other crimes, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) has news for all those who pointed fingers.

The ABA and local gambling news are now bringing to everyone’s attention a report released by the British police, which shows that betting shops have among the lowest crime levels of all retailers located on high streets. In fact, it appears the betting industry is on a par with fast foods, having seen fewer incidents than bars, clothes shops, and even food stores.

The official figures released by Britain’s police forces will seem surprising to anyone, but for all those who called for betting shops to be closed, earlier this year, they will seem downright unbelievable.

Making betting shops safer

Number of incidents and crimes reported between January 1 and December 31, 2013:

Fast food outlets – 2,163
Betting Shops – 2,269
Clothes shops – 6,226
Pubs – 18, 989
Convenience/food stores – 59,431

The big announcement coincided with the launch of the revised Safe Bet Alliance (SBA), a joint initiative which brought together bookmakers, the Metropolitan Police, the Institute of Conflict Management, the Community Union and Crimestoppers.

The SBA was created to set out a series of guidelines for high street betting shops, in order to prevent and reduce crime and workplace violence. At the same time, the document covers issues like risk assessment and training.

Sarah Simpson, Chair of the Safe Bet Alliance, told reporters: “Generally, betting shops offer customers and staff a safe and secure place to enjoy their leisure time or work. As with any other retail business, bookmakers can and do suffer from crime, including robberies and work-related violence.”

Formed in 2010, the SBA’s main role is to tackle these types of crimes through cooperation between the betting industry, the local police and other organizations or public institutions which could somehow contribute to the initiative’s success.

“Since its formation, the Alliance has achieved some real successes – the number of robberies for example fell in London by 60 per cent in two years, and won the prestigious Home Office Tilley Award. The SBA has now, as you will have seen, also been endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers,” Simpson added.

Crime rates drop

At the beginning of the year, the media reported several stories linking fixed-odds betting terminals to money laundering, problem gambling, thefts and even murders.

Anti-betting organizations were demanding that politicians change British gambling laws to introduce stricter rules for operators, and to reduce the number of these machines, as well as the minimum stakes on them. But the figures compiled from data gathered by the UK police show that betting shops are not the ones with the highest number of reported incidents and crimes.

Last year, fast food outlets and betting shops both reported less than 2,300 incidents, while the number of crimes was much higher in clothes shops, pubs and food stores. Pubs have reported nearly 19,000 incidents, while convenience stores had almost 60,000 such cases.

“These figures show that when industry and trade unions are prepared to work together in partnership that workplace safety improves significantly,” said John Park, Assistant General Secretary, Strategy and Policy for Community Union.

“We know that many betting shop workers are still concerned about their safety at work and that is why the ongoing work of the Safe Bet Alliance is central to sustaining and enhancing safety in the industry.”

A successful initiative

The SBA has clearly contributed to preventing crimes in betting shops located on the streets of Britain. So much, in fact, that other retail sectors are following its example and looking to develop their own versions of it.

“The Safe Bet Alliance has proven to be a success, dramatically reducing crime rates and keeping staff and customers safe,” ABB Chairman Paul Darling pointed out. “Their safety is our number one concern and I am glad to see the crime figures show how effective the measures have been and continue to be.”

Although betting-related crime rate has reduced, gambling addiction remains an issue. Officials are expected to make some changes in the rules applied to betting shops later this Autumn, after a study regarding the impact of fixed-odds betting terminals is published.

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