Bookmakers have comer under fire after announcing details of new loyalty card schemes.
Two leading UK firms, Ladbrokes and William Hill, say they will press ahead with plans despite being attacked for encouraging people to gamble recklessly with money they cannot afford to lose.
William Hill, which is Britain’s biggest bookmaker, is trialing a system that gives regular punters better odds if they gamble regularly.
Meanwhile Ladbrokes is planning to extend it’s “Odds On” loyalty scheme to include controversial fixed odds betting terminals.
Campaigners have reacted angrily to the plans.
James North, policy adviser for the Methodist Church, told the Daily Mail:
‘Fixed-odds betting terminals offer high stakes, highly addictive gambling – that’s why they are known as the ‘‘crack cocaine of gambling’’.
‘In a time of austerity, anything that encourages people to gamble more than they can afford to is reprehensible. Loyalty cards risk giving gamblers the impression that they are making money when they may be spending more than they would otherwise have done.’
The move by the tow betting giants underline that the gambling industry has suffered as much as any sector during the economic downturn and is now looking at new ways of generating cash.
Gamblers with Ladbrokes need one of the firm’s cards. The company claims that customers already use the card in 40 per cent of betting transaction.
The ability to use the card will now be extended to the fixed-odds system later this year.
Cardholders earn a point every time they bet £2. When they have earned 500 points, gambling £ 1,000, they receive a £ 5 free bet voucher.
Ladbrokes said: ‘The aim of Odds On is to encourage greater use with Ladbrokes by rewarding existing customer behaviour. It provides us with a good deal of information about customers.’ Unlike the Ladbrokes card, which requires customers to apply with their name and address, William Hill said its version, which it will launch by the end of the year, will be more anonymous.
‘We don’t think people want to receive things through the post at home or be reminded of how much they gamble,’ said a source.
Instead, players will be rewarded with special games, such as taking the zero off the roulette wheel, giving them more chance to win.
Industry sources defended the move and denied that the changes would lead to an increase in problem gambling.
One industry source said: ”We work hard to make sure people understand the risks of what they are doing. These schemes will help us to better understand what motivates people in the first place.”