Ladbrokes unveils FOBT-pay proposal
Bookmaker Ladbrokes is to link the pay of top executives to its success in ensuring the responsible use of gaming machines.
The move comes amid growing calls for the use of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT), which have been dubbed the "crack cocaine of gambling", to be banned or limited.
In a letter to Gambling minister Helen Grant, Ladbrokes chief executive Richard Glynn said a number of responsible gambling performance measures will be written into senior executives' remuneration.
The letter, which was disclosed by Sky News and confirmed by the company, also includes a promise to promote the industry's new Code for Responsible Gambling in hundreds of its shop windows. The firm is set to provide more details in full-year results on Tuesday.
In a letter to the Telegraph, the bosses of Britain's five biggest chains, including William Hill and Betfred, also outlined a series of measures to ensure punters who use the machines do so responsibly.
They include enforced breaks with automatic alerts on money and time spent for both customers and staff.
The letter said: "We have trained nearly 40,000 staff to look out for signs of problem gambling behaviour and how best to approach customers who might need help.
"People who bet responsibly and return are the bedrock of our businesses. We do not want our customers to develop problems.
"The launch of the Code this week demonstrates our determination to address concerns about problem gambling."
The industry, which attracts eight million customers a year, already operates under strict rules imposed by the Gambling Commission and local authorities.
But Labour claims the machines have allowed betting shops to become ''mini casinos'', with users able to lose up to £300 a minute.
Unlike traditional fruit machines in pubs and amusement arcades, punters can gamble up to £100 every 20 seconds on the FOBTs, attracted by payouts of up to £ 500.
Bookmakers are allowed up to four of the machines in each branch but Labour claims they get around the regulations by opening more branches, with FOBTs clustered in poorer communities.
The industry letter to the Telegraph said the "overwhelming majority" of machine customers gamble responsibly.
It added: "Problem gambling levels in the UK are low by international standards amounting to around half a per cent of the population, and have not increased since the introduction of gaming machines in betting shops or the inception of online gambling.
"But we are not complacent as all gambling products have the capacity to cause harm to a small number of individuals."