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Ladbrokes strengthens its responsible gambling efforts

UK bookmaker Ladbrokes has vowed to link the amount its top executives earn to its targets on tackling problem gambling as part of an effort to ease fears over the risks posed by fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Sky News reported that it has intercepted a letter from Ladbrokes' chief executive, Richard Glynn, outlining the new plans. The letter had been intended for industry stakeholders and UK gambling minister Helen Grant.

In addition to promising to link between the pay of top bosses and its efforts on tackling problem gambling, the bookmaker also plans to set up a board committee to investigate responsible gambling policies.

Ladbrokes, which is due to publish its financial results tomorrow (Tuesday), said that it would also promote the Association of British Bookmakers' code of player protection in its shop windows from this week.

“On Tuesday, we will also announce that the Ladbrokes board has decided to formalise a number of responsible gambling performance measures into senior executives' remuneration,” Glynn’s letter said.

“A committee will be established, reporting to the main PLC board, to oversee this and put the measures into practice from 2015 at the latest.”

The move comes at a time when the UK gambling industry is facing heavy criticism from government and campaigners over the use of FOBTs, with Ladbrokes not the only company to have made changes and promises to help appease those opposed to the continued use of such machines.

The Telegraph reported that as well as Ladbrokes, bosses from Gala Coral, Paddy Power, William Hill and Betfred have outlined a code for fixed odds gaming in a joint letter obtained by the newspaper.

The code sets out measures that will be introduced this week to ensure those that use FOBTs in high-street shops do so “responsibly”.

The letter read: “The overwhelming majority of our machine customers gamble responsibly. Problem gambling levels in the UK are low by international standards … 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.

“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.”

The bookmaking bosses added that the new code outlined in the letter is just the “first step”.

The code comes ahead of an independent review on FOBTs, which is being carried out by the Responsible Gambling Trust and is due to be published in October of this year.

Betting bosses had said that they do not wish punters to develop gambling problems, but any restrictions on FOBTs should be based on solid evidence.

The Association of British Bookmakers has drawn up a ‘code for responsible gambling’ and is due to enforce measures on FOBTs from this week.

The code acknowledges the ‘concern’ surrounding FOBTs and will allow players to set a maximum amount that they would be prepared to lose during a single gambling session on the machine.