Ladbrokes announced it is closing 1,000 of its 3,500 betting shops in the United Kingdom. The bookmaker’s customer service managers are being told to sign up Ladbrokes gamblers at individual shops to online gambling accounts to avoid redundancy.
Employees are being judges on their ability to sign up customers to online accounts in the time before the shops are closed. Customer service managers in particular will be judged on their ability to convert land-based gamblers into online gamblers.
Those employees who score the highest will have a leg-up in remaining employed at Ladbrokes, though they will have to relocate to another betting shop in the network. Performance on an online employment test will determine 40% of one’s score.
Another 20% of the grade will be determined by a face-to-face interview, while another 10% will be determined by past disciplinary actions. The remaining 30% of the score will involve the employee’s performance in signing up online players.
Carolyn Harris Criticizes Ladbrokes
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, a notable critic of the UK’s gambling industry, expressed concern about Ladbrokes’ hiring process. In a scathing critique of England’s oldest bookmaker, Harris said, “It is totally disgraceful that staff in bookmakers are being made to compete for their jobs in this way.”
“I am also appalled, although sadly not surprised, that staff are being asked to take advantage of vulnerable people and urge them to sign up for online accounts. We are dealing with the scourge of FOBTs but at the same time bookmakers are seemingly seeking to drive problems online.”
Harris added, “It is time for bookmakers and gambling operators to put the vulnerable, customers and staff ahead of coldhearted profit.”
Trade Union Criticized Ladbrokes
British trade union groups echoed the sentiments of Carolyn Harris in criticizing Ladbrokes’ policies. Tom Blenkinsop, the operations director of Community, the betting shop trade union, said in a public statement, “The company’s consultation document has caused real concern among our members, with many believing that decisions have already been made to target those workers in betting shops outside the city centres.”
“Ladbrokes must immediately engage with Community, the union for betting shop workers, to see if an alternative plan can be found to avoid job losses. The government also has a role to play, and must look at what support they can offer to workers whose jobs are at risk as an unintended consequence of changes to the law.”
Ladbrokes Employees Angered by Policy
According to internal online message boards for Ladbrokes employees, the company’s workers also are not happy their continuing employeement is based upon signing up players.
One Ladbrokes employee told The Guardian, “It’s nonsense, ethically wrong, massively flawed and the moment it was considered in the forum, meeting or whatever, it should have been shot down immediately, and once a 30% tag was attached to it, laughed out of the room.”
Ladbrokes-Coral Online Gambling Signup Policy
Ladbrokes’ policy involving the 30% employment evaluation is designed to offset the loss of revenues from the UK’s fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) policy. Starting in May, the maximum bet allowed on a FOBT machine will be £2. The previous max bet was £100.
It is the change to the FOBT policies which prompted Ladbrokes to shut down 1,000 of its betting shops. William Hill announced last month it would close an even larger percentage of its betting shops, due to the same government policies.
William Hill avoided the opprobrium of British MPs and trade unions, because it announced no similar policy to the one being employed by Ladbrokes-Coral Group.
Bookmaker’s Statement on FOBT Closures
For its part, Ladbrokes sees nothing wrong with its 30% evaluation policy or the decision to have employees sign up customers to their online bookmaker site. A Ladbrokes spokesman said, “We are fully committed to running a fair and transparent consultation process with our shop colleagues.”
“Given the regulatory environment, our aim is to keep the maximum number of shops open, job losses to a minimum, and to continue to build a responsible and vibrant multi-channel environment in our shops where customers can transact with us seamlessly in our shops or online.”