Stable staff chief warns of long-term job losses with a £2 FOBT maximum stake
George McGrath, chief executive of the National Association of Racing Staff, believes others will feel the brunt before his members do if maximum stakes for fixed odds betting terminals are reduced to £2 but has little doubt jobs across the industry will be lost.
Racing’s demand for quality riders has far outstripped supply in recent years, so the threat to livelihoods among stable staff in the short term would perhaps be minimal, according to McGrath, although a fall in prize-money caused by a reduction in media rights income if betting shops were to close would inevitably have consequences over a longer period.
“Any reduction in prize-money would have a knock-on effect because that ultimately dictates the trainer’s income and their ability to attract owners,” said the chief executive of the trade union for racing staff, based in Newmarket.
“At the moment there's such a shortage of good-quality riders that a lot of trainers over the last two or three years are citing that shortage as a reason they’re unable to grow their business.”
He added: “The National Association of Racing Staff certainly wouldn’t welcome any impact upon trainers’ businesses, but do we ultimately see it having an impact on staffing levels?
"In the short-term probably not, but it’s blatantly obvious if the number of horses in training is reduced then consequently the number of staff would be reduced.”
The government is considering a range of maximum stakes for FOBTs from £2 to £50, with the machines widely criticised for fuelling problem gambling and associated social ills.
McGrath thinks the most drastic of those cuts to £2 would be a strange decision, given the significant impact that would have on the betting and racing industries.
“It’s an odd stance for a government to take, a decision that would slash an awful lot of money from an industry that is already struggling in terms of its prize-money return, coupled with the fact it would absolutely mean there would be job losses – if not directly among my members – so it would be a strange decision,” he said.
“Some may call it brave, some may call it foolish. I’ve also said I think it would be very harsh to reduce the stake from potentially £100 to £2. I absolutely endorse a reduction, but if they want to bring it down to £2 then it should be phased in to give bookmakers a chance to realign their budgets and plan accordingly, not to just take them out at the knees.”
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