Online gambling’s superiority over the high street bookmaker isn’t just limited to accessibility, variety and simplicity, but also includes health and safety
Gambling has, rather lamentably, always attracted a quantity of crime. Everything from simple muggings up to, and including, the sort of convoluted caper that makes for an entertaining movie plot. However whilst it’s rather watchable to see Paul Newman and Robert Redford in “The Sting”, or indeed the later remakes of the Ocean’s 11 premise with George Clooney and Brad Pitt, the reality is most of the criminal activity surrounding gambling isn’t of the massive complex escapade variety.
Bookmakers Get Robbed
• Trio with shotguns
• Pair with knives
• Man with a bomb
UK gambling laws are some of the most liberal in the world and there are numerous betting shop entities doing business around the country, their store fronts a common sight on the high streets of Britain. Naturally the character of individual betting shops varies, typically based on the socio-economic status of the area in which they are located, but there is a certain degree of uniformity in facilities as with most commercial chains, and those in the same field.
These very public gambling interface locations are seen by most as part of the fabric of the nation, almost traditional in existence, and whilst the advent of the internet has presented them with a plethora of competition they’ve no real long term chance of keeping pace with, these establishments continue to haunt the industry. The time of the corner bookmaker has come and gone, and the bookmakers themselves know it already, branching out online like Bet365, with varying degrees of success.
Drunk Robs Betting Shop
One of the reasons these physical locations are doomed is not just that the internet provides greater accessibility, less social-stigma and doesn’t require people to get dressed, find their keys and leave the house, but also because they’re increasingly vulnerable to crime. Attracted to the large quantities of cash that a bookmakers can have on the premises criminals frequently target them, often threatening or employing violence in pursuit of their nefarious ends, endangering the lives of both patrons and staff.
Three men were recently jailed for at least eight years each after robbing eight bookmakers with a shotgun, five in London, two in Warwickshire and one in Leicestershire. Their spree lasted just two weeks before the police caught up with them, but in that time the staff and patrons of eight high street bookmakers had been traumatized. It is rare, by comparison, to have men with shotguns jump out of your computer to hold you hostage whilst they rob the website you’ve been gambling on.
Men with knives rob a Coral betting shop in Kettering, a drunken man claims to have a gun up his jumper and tries to make off with just 31 GBP, a Bretton Court Betfred is robbed by two men with a gun, a Ladbrokes in Birkdale is targeted by a man with a concealed weapon and in Greater Manchester, a William Hill was taken for 300 GBP by a man claiming he had a bomb. Patrons who like to bet on sports in the UK at these establishments are risking far more than just their cash, it seems to me.
Online Gambling More Secure
The grand caper so often seen on screen then, does not reflect the reality of crimes interaction with gambling in the UK. The brutality of guns in your face or a knife at your throat perhaps removing any glamor that one might associate with the activity, and where once this would be an unfortunately ever-present danger for gamblers, these days there are better options. The internet has given us Google, Twitter, and Youtube, but it’s gift to gamblers has been to free them from the shackles of the old world.
Why visit a bookmakers on the high street when you can tap the icons on your phone or click the mouse a few times on your desktop? Why surround yourself with strangers when you can relax and make the wagers you want in the manner you’d like at the time of your own choosing? The internet has even removed some of the social-stigma from gambling, with it being increasingly seen as just another part of the techno-development of entertainment and sports.
In the end the high street bookmakers are destined for the scrapheap of history not just because they’re an anachronism overtaken by progress, but because whilst we like to gamble, we shouldn’t have to gamble to do so. The safety and security provided online can never be matched by a high street presence that has “ROB ME” written on the outside, and the gambling news makers are only too well aware that there will come a day when beyond on-course bookies, it’ll all be online alone.