Silence From The Betting Shops

Betting Shop Staff

At the end of last year, we compiled the results of our recent surveys on violence or threats of violence against staff and unreasonable age verification failures, and presented these to Betfred, Entain, Flutter and William Hill for comment.

The results from our surveys were summarised as follows:

Violence Against Staff

  • 90% of respondents have witnessed violence or threats of violence by customers.
  • 75% have personally received or heard threats by customers that they or other staff would be assaulted after leaving work in a betting shop.
  • After receiving or witnessing a threat of or act of violence at work, 72% of respondents said that their employers took no action against the perpetrating customers.
  • Only 20% received any practical support from their employers, (e.g. counselling).
  • 36% of respondents said that their line managers are not supportive of staff safety.
  • 45% said that staff safety is either not very high or a low priority for top management.
  • 21% said they have been subjected to criticism or disciplinary action for ‘standing up for themselves’ when confronted with violence or verbal abuse.
  • In answer to the question ‘Have you experienced a situation where customers who are known to be aggressive, abusive or violent or customers who have damaged the shop or machines have not been barred from a shop you worked in?’. 50% said ‘yes’.
  • 14% said that criminal activity unrelated to betting is an issue in their shops (such as drug usage or dealing by customers on the premises).
  • 93% of respondents said that lone-working places staff at more risk or considerably more risk.

Age Verification

  • Whilst not all members have experienced problems with age verification, a significant number have either experienced a problem personally or seen a colleague criticised unfairly.
  • The main difficulty members encounter is age verification whilst single manning, where 90% of respondents reported a problem.
  • 50% said that the layout of the shop means that it can be difficult to see people entering, either due to the distance from the counter to the door or due to machines blocking the line of sight.
  • 67% of people reported a problem with machines being located close to shop entrances.
  • 45% said that mystery shoppers had not made eye contact, despite the requirement for them to do so.
  • Others reported problems with shop security equipment, such as door chimes and security lights.

The results don’t present a good picture, do they? We explained to the chains that we wanted to work constructively with them to address the problems identified, some of which are relatively straightforward to address.

The only chain which responded was William Hill, the other chains have so far failed to respond at all which is not a surprise. In summary, the response from William Hill was that given the chain has “formal colleague feedback mechanisms” and an “excellent retail leadership team who stay close with their teams”, they feel they have sufficient information about how staff feel and therefore “don’t see a need to meet at this point in time”.

To someone outside the betting shop chains, William Hill appears to be far the most structured in terms of its management systems so it was perhaps predictable that they would respond more professionally. However, their arguments don’t hold water.

Employers set up internal staff committees like William Hill’s for one reason only: so they can pretend that staff have a voice and don’t need a proper, independent and professional trade union to represent them. The people who serve on these internal committees then do so either because they are genuine but naïve or because they think it will position them for promotion. They and their committees are toothless and incapable of acting truly independently.

It’s quite obvious that with internal staff communication channels only, many staff are unlikely to want to put themselves in the firing line and criticise their employer’s actions. These systems are notorious for failing to capture a true picture of what goes on in the workplace.

Furthermore, with no independent scrutiny, what incentive is there for the chains to get on and address the problems staff are facing?

That’s where Affinity is important. We see on a daily basis the problems that betting shop staff encounter and it’s clear that action needs to be taken to improve the working environment for staff.

We’ve given the chains an opportunity to engage but they’ve so far chosen not to. Accordingly, we’ll be presenting our findings to the Gambling Commission and M.P.s shortly and we will of course keep members up to date with the campaign.

If there’s anything that you want to share with us that you think we should know about, you can email us entirely confidentially at Affinity is entirely independent of the betting shops; you can talk to us with complete peace of mind that your identity will not be revealed.

Remember also that our Advice Team is available 24 hours a day on 01234 716005 if you have a problem at work.

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