Cracking down on addictive gambling machines would be like shooting horses and greyhounds, the boss of Britain’s largest bookmaker has claimed.
Ralph Topping, the Chief Executive of William Hill, said horse racing will not “survive in its current form” without retail betting.
“If you hit that you might as well get the stun guns ready and start shooting the horse population and the greyhound population”, he told The Sunday Telegraph.
Critics say addictive gambling machines such as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) dominate retail betting shops.
FOBTs are known as the “crack cocaine” of gambling and allow punters to stake up to £100 a spin on virtual versions of casino games like blackjack and roulette.
However, gambling bosses, including Topping, say a new Code for Responsible Gambling shows they are addressing issues around the machines.
In a letter published on The Telegraph’s website, they say new safeguards are being implemented, and the Code “demonstrates our determination to address concerns about problem gambling”.
The bosses, from Gala Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, William Hill and Betfred, also highlight research to be carried out by the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT).
However, an anti-FOBT group has already criticised the research, saying it is tainted by a conflict of interest.
And an ex-gambling addict from the group hit out at the safeguards while commenting that Topping’s comments are “not based in reality”.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has previously said bookmakers are being turned into “mini-casinos” and are “spreading like an epidemic along high streets”.
“In Newham there are 87 betting shops with an estimated 348 machines and across the five Liverpool constituencies there are 153 betting shops with around 559 FOBTs”, he commented.
Labour says it will look into banning FOBTs altogether if it wins the next General Election, despite the Party liberalising laws on the issue when it was in power.
David Cameron has said he shares concerns about the machines, but that the Government is waiting for a report on their impact.
Last year Newham Council opposed a new Paddy Power betting shop because the council said the shop’s main profits would come from FOBTs.