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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Jenningsbet boss renews attack on rival's call for cut in FOBT stakes

Tracey Crouch: the minister for sport, tourism and heritage has received a letter from Jenningsbet boss Greg Knight
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The managing director of Britain's largest chain of independent bookmakers has written to culture secretary Karen Bradley and sports minister Tracey Crouch to renew his criticism of Paddy Power Betfair chief executive Breon Corcoran's recent call for a cut in FOBT stakes.

Greg Knight of Jenningsbet, which employs 480 staff and operates 100 betting shops, told Crouch he was "extremely concerned" the government would take Corcoran's comments at face value and claimed his rival was "seeking to deliberately undermine the UK retail betting industry".

Last month Corcoran wrote to Crouch at the Department for Digital, Media and Sport calling for the stakes on FOBTs to be reduced to £10 or less when the government publishes the results of its gambling review, becoming the first major bookmaker to do so.

Corcoran, who in August announced he was stepping down at Paddy Power Betfair, said the subject had become "toxic" to the industry and that lack of decisive action would lead to continuing uncertainty for the sector.

In response Knight said Corcoran's letter was driven by "blatant commercial consideration" and he repeated that claim in his own letter to ministers in which he said Paddy Power Betfair's aim was "to capitalise on the demise of the independent sector in the UK by takeover and market consolidation".

He added: "It would also benefit from the migration online of retail customers."

Greg Knight: "Mr Corcoran is playing with people's livelihoods"

To back up those claims Knight cited a Paddy Power Betfair presentation to investors on September 29 that said there were "significant opportunities in the market" for acquiring betting shops through 844 independents and included the case study of an independent bought in December last year with a business case modelled on a £2 maximum FOBT stake.

Knight concluded: "Mr Corcoran is well aware that even well-run businesses like ours would not be able to survive a drastic cut to stakes. He's using the Triennial Review as a vehicle to deliver a long-term strategy of market domination.

"The independent sector employs 4,000 of the 40,000 people employed in betting shops. PPB is cynically attempting to use the British government for its own ends.

"Mr Corcoran is playing with people's livelihoods and I urge your department to recognise and acknowledge that."

Paddy Power Betfair said they did not wish to respond to Knight's claims.

The government is expected to publish the results of its gambling review this month.

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He is using the Triennial Review as a vehicle to deliver a long-term strategy of market domination
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