St Leonards betting shop closes suddenly
An independent betting shop in St Leonards has closed suddenly, citing the Government’s decision to introduce £2 limits on betting machines as the main reason.
Bet Bet Bet 24/7, in Bohemia Road, closed on August 31 after more than 13 years in the town.
Owner Rob Prior said he made the decision after the Government decided to lower the maximum stake on betting machines from £100 to £2 in April.
After waiting five months to see how much the new law would impact business, Rob, who owns the store with his son Adam, decided it was best to close.
He said: “We decided to wait five months and in the end it was a close call in terms of staying open. It was a strategic decision.
“We looked at it and thought this isn’t going to end well if we give it another year.
“I didn’t want to do it. It’s a risk-driven business. I made the decision that the best outcome was a small profit or the realistic option was a small loss. I would rather have a year of my life back.”
Rob said the Government’s maximum stake law would have a knock-on affect for all betting shops – something the industry warned at the time.
He said when he opened Bet Bet Bet 24/7 in April 2006 there were 17 betting shops in St Leonards and Hastings. By April 1, 2019, that number was down to ten and now it stands at eight.
He also pointed to William Hill’s decision to close 700 shops as proof of the impact the new law was having on the industry.
He added: “When machines were operating at full-tilt, seven closed anyway.
“Betting shops can’t survive without these machines. The Government knows this because the betting industry warned it but they don’t care.
“High street betting shops were targeted because they are visible. We have these regulations yet I have never had a cracked screen or a flipped machine in my shop. Instead, customers can place much bigger bets on their phone or online but the damage isn’t seen. If they are smashing up their living room after losing a bet, it’s not seen.
“Take the machines away from betting shops and the industry will collapse.
“I don’t want to put a figure on it but I think there will only be five or six shops left in the whole of St Leonards and Hastings soon.”