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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: You can place a bet in more places than you can buy a newspaper; bookmakers outnumber banks by four to one.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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English: William Hill, Bookmakers, 9 North Lane, Headingley. Near the junction with Otley Road. Traffic queuing at the traffic lights...
English: William Hill, Bookmakers, 9 North Lan...
English: William Hill, Bookmakers, 9 North Lane, Headingley. Near the junction with Otley Road. Traffic queuing at the traffic lights is reflected in the windows. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Within a half-mile stretch there are eight betting shops, including a cluster of four surrounding the post office.You can place a bet in more places than you can buy a newspaper; bookmakers outnumber banks by four to one. Long gone are the fruit machines of old. In their place are souped-up betting machines offering high-speed, high-stakes casino games, where players can stake up to £100 on a 20-second spin of the wheel. Punters can play with cash, or pay with credit or debit cards at the counter.
This turbo-charged gambling is a niche occupation – fewer than 1 in 20 adults has used a fixed-odds betting terminal in the past year. But within this tiny group, they are phenomenally popular: based on financial statements from the biggest bookmakers’ accounts, the Bureau estimates that £123m a day is wagered on the UK’s 32,000 terminals. The bookmakers keep a tiny proportion of this, but it still adds up to £3.3m a day, or £1.2bn a year, according to the Gambling Commission.
Ironically, the gaming machines make bookmakers less dependent on chance: whereas a surprise sports result can affect a whole financial quarter, with fixed-odds betting terminals the returns are just that – fixed. The company keeps a long-term average of around 3% of the money staked on them.
For bookmakers it’s a winning strategy. The machines contributed 49% of William Hill’s high-street gains from bets last year – £424m. And each year bookmakers squeeze out more profits. William Hill’s latest figures show its 9,000 fixed-odds betting terminals earned an average of £900 a week – more than double the £402 per machine it earned in 2005.
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