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Bookies breathe easy despite smoking ban

1/7/2008
Today, July 1, 2008 will usher in the first anniversary of the UK smoking ban, and while some of the leisure sector (pub, bingo and casino industries) have felt the pinch, Britain’s bookmakers have stood firm and one year on are, in fact, reporting some positive effects from customers and staff alike. Even with the rise to prominence of online gambling, it would appear that William Hill still plays a big part for high-street bookmakers.

A recent poll conducted by William Hill shows that after some initial apprehension, and even the smokers themselves have positively welcomed the ban. Adam Hepburn who manages Brighton’s largest branch of William Hill betting shop said: “Personally, I love the smoking ban, it makes for more a pleasant environment for both punters and staff and interestingly some of the customers have even said that they’re now smoking fewer cigarettes as a result. I think punters have changed their betting habits a little, but it hasn’t really affected the business. Punters will pop in and out of the shop between races and still not miss any action. But, you can’t do that in a bingo hall or casino, the action is non-stop. For that reason we’ve even attracted a few punters we didn’t have before.”

Hill’s survey showed that out of 100 customers polled, over 70 percent felt that the betting shop experience was better post-smoking ban, with 56 percent saying that the ban made shops ‘more welcoming’.

Regular William Hill punter Tony said: “Everyone got used to the smoking ban very quickly. There was a bit of grumbling in the beginning but it’s fine now. It looks better in here, and my clothes don’t smell smoky like they did before.”

In just 12 months the smoking ban has helped to put across a better overall image for Britain’s betting shops. Hill’s survey also showed that the old image of betting shops as being ‘smoke-filled, and unwelcoming’ has become out of date, and they are now seen as a fundamental part of the British high street, with disabled access, hearing loops, refreshments and banks of LCD screens showing a multitude of sporting action. Hills are also experiencing a higher ratio of women in betting shops than ever before, and this trend looks set to continue into the future, despite the increasing appeal of online gambling.

Hills spokeswoman Kate Miller said: “On the whole, the smoking ban has done nothing but help the image of Britain’s bookies. Betting on sports and things like X-factor, Big Brother and lottery-style games are enjoying a boom, and produce a higher proportion of our turnover than ever before. This sees our shops now attracting a wider range of customers than ever, and that coupled with the smoking ban has led to an image overhaul for betting shops and the good old bookies.”
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