When the stake limits on FOBT machines came into play in 2019, those in the industry stated that things would have to change to ensure that shop closures were kept to a minimum. While much of the talk was about how bad things were and how those on the high street were going to struggle, Ladbrokes Coral were hard at work trying to think of ways in which they could make their service better.
One idea they had was to create concept betting shops, to make their shops more appealing, especially to younger punters who have grown up with online betting. The first shop was opened under the Coral banner and we have now seen the second one open at the end of 2019, this time under the Ladbrokes name. The shop has opened up in Birmingham and based on the success story of the first one, many are excited to see what happens here and whether this is the new trend in the high street betting industry.
The shop offers high street betting for the modern, digital age, taking away the old-fashioned feel of standard betting shops and replacing them with shops that are all about technology, and ideal for those who are used to online betting.
The shops do not have the traditional betting shop edition of the Racing Post up on their walls, instead, they feature touch screen terminals that have digital racecards on them. They also feature what Ladbrokes Coral have called their ‘departure board’ which shows the next races going off, with a snippet of information including a tip from the Racing Post.
The entire service they have on offer inside these shops is supported by the Racing Post and focuses on bringing what punters can get online, but giving it to them inside a betting shop. This also means the betting screens are covered in prices as well as stats for the upcoming big games, the sort of thing you see on some online websites.
When the new FOBT limits came into play, it was expected that players would move from their local betting shop to playing online, with most bookmakers offering a sports and casino service alongside each other for them. However, what we are seeing here is the online service being offered inside a shop, hoping that customers stay on the high street rather than go online. The social aspect of betting and playing gaming machines coupled with the digital shops that Ladbrokes Coral are bringing out could be what is needed to keep high street betting alive.
The answer to this all depends on how many more of these shops are opened, how many of the old shops change into these and whether those in the area value the shop environment or the flexibility to stake larger amounts online the most.
Those that like to play along with friends and inside a shop with other people are likely to really like the concept shops that have been created. They get to remain inside a shop environment, play small staking games on the machines and place their sports bets in a new, digital environment that matches what is available online.
However, sadly for those involved with the high street betting industry, that may not be enough. With the £2 per spin staking limit on FOBT machines, those who wish to play with larger stakes and who value that as their most important aspect of gambling have had no choice but to move online. When playing online, for now at least anyway, they are able to stake larger amounts like they used to do in the shop they visited, and this also has the convenience factor attached to it, you don’t need to leave the house to play.
These new concept shops could keep some customers on the high street, rather than going online but it is unlikely to have too much of a negative impact on the online casinos and bookmakers currently operating. It is certainly unlikely that those who already play online will abandon that in favour of going into one of these shops, despite what they offer.
For now, the online casino and betting industry can keep enjoying the additional custom they are receiving thanks to the FOBT staking limit. That may not be as forthcoming in the future if these shops take off and spread around the country, but that seems to be some way off as we have just two of them right now, with only one company trying them out.
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