|Britain’s bookmakers are to be taken to court by the gaming board. Their right to provide customers with electronic betting machines is to be challenged.|
Proving astonishingly popular the lucrative machines have been an innovative investment for high-street bookies. Ladbroke has over a 1,000 installed in its shops with a further 1,000 planned for use by the first quarter of 2003. With machines installed in only 20% of Ladbrokes shops a weekly turnover is already being made in excess of £11 million, equating to an annual profit of about £14 million.
The gaming board believes that the machines, which offer a number of games from roulette to bingo, need to be classified as gaming machines and should therefore comply with strict gaming regulations. Under this classification no more than two gaming machines would be permitted per betting shop by law, with stakes fixed no higher than 30p and maximum cash prizes of £25.
A test case is to be launched by the gaming board within the next fortnight that will challenge the legal status of the machines. The Association of British Bookmakers has been asked to cease installation of any further machines. However high-street bookmakers are unwilling to relinquish one of their fastest growing sources of revenue. A spokesman for Ladbrokes said that the machines were not unlawful and it would continue to install machines.