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Staffless betting shops: the future for retail?

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The Irish retail betting landscape has come up against its fair share of challenges in recent years, with the introduction of a 2% tax on turnover over €2.5 million, the absence of a central gambling regulator and most recently the closure of all non-essential shops.

But despite these hurdles, fixed costs have remained at a steady level (and in some cases, have increased). 

Colm Finlay is the Founder / Director of BetXS – a subsidiary of Orchadia Systems. He told SBC News that between 85-90% of outgoings for ‘traditional’ shops are fixed, however an increased focus on variable costs can help bring a ‘breath of fresh air’ to the land-based sector.

He said: “Needless to say that the self-service, staffless shops operate on a much lower cost basis when compared to their traditional, manned shop counterparts. What’s happened in Ireland and the UK over the last 10 years or so is that as fixed costs have increased, certain towns and villages no longer have the population base for which to support those shops with high fixed costs. 

“If you look over here in Ireland, it’s not permissible to do single-manning because you’re expected to give your staff breaks after every three of hours of work done. After five hours of work, they are then permitted to take a full hour lunch break. The effect of that is that you can’t really operate a shop on a single-man basis. 

“When you then apply that to the quota of hours that a betting shop can open over the week, you’d really need four or five labour units to keep a betting shop open. From an Irish perspective that’s €100,000 – €110,000 in costs which are fixed and have to be serviced. 

“When you then bolt on the €47,000 in fees to media rights holders, the money that has to be paid to landlords and all of the other fixed costs associated with a manned shop, your fixed costs are exceeding the €200,000 mark with a few variable costs.”

He shared that a shift towards automation and “use of efficient and reliable technology” can help alleviate any risks of human error – with costs equating to approximately 35-40% of traditional shops. These costs, Finlay continued, are expected to drop even further through negotiations with rights holders such as SIS and TRP.

“With BetXS operating between 35-40% of the cost basis, with further decreases to those levels when we have a proper revenue-share / turnover-based arrangement in place with the rights holders, those costs will drop even further,” he continued. 

“What will then happen is that these remote communities can get their betting shops back. From a horse racing perspective, that’s great news. The expected revenue in terms of incomes for horse racing and for the Exchequer has dropped to zero. But we’re going to turn those zeros into something.” 

Now open in Rathcoole, Kilbeggan and Ballivor, all BetXS shops are run on a remote basis – with CCTV, shutters, security systems, displays and lights all controlled using a fully automated solution – and all bets placed and settled via self-service betting terminals (SSBTs). 

But with no carriage of goods, Finlay believes that the Irish land-based sector could wholly benefit from the roll-out of automated betting shops, bringing with it a whole host of benefits for local communities.

He added: “We don’t have a carriage of goods. Betting shops are so well suited to this model. Say if I was to have a shop in Cahersiveen in the ring of Kerry, that shop just has to open up tomorrow – I don’t have to bring any horse racing down there in a horsebox, unlike grocery shops I’m not having to unload a refrigerated lorry full of goods. 

“The broadband carries the content from whatever race track or football ground and brings it into these remote locations. Having no carriage of goods is great and it makes betting shops much more suited to automation – it makes betting shops much more viable.”

When it comes to responsible gambling measures, the BetXS Founder addressed the need for advanced facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence to identify and verify the age of a customer. 

The SSBTs[1] feature high-resolution biometric cameras which require a one-time sign up for bettors which appear to be under the age of 25. 

Finlay also highlighted the cross-network self-exclusion system, with that data then distributed across all Orchadia Systems shops – something which can help reduce levels of problem gambling. 

“Safer gambling is where I truly believe that Orchadia Systems is in a completely different league to the incumbent way of doing things,” he said. “From my experience as an experienced betting shop worker, I’ve received those self-exclusion forms from customers who no longer wish to bet. It’s not a very nice thing for the customer to have to endure. 

“We used to hand out an A4 sheet of paper where bettors had to fill in their name, address etc. They then had to attach a copy of their passport photo which was stapled to the form. This would disencourage people from submitting these details. It’s a very intrusive thing to do – especially given how tough it is for people to recognise that they have a problem gambling issue. 

“At Orchadia Systems, players can self exclude via their mobile application. They don’t need to speak to anyone. What is better is that this is then subsequently deployed to a network of shops operating on the Orchadia Systems platform. 

“That means a customer could call into a betting shop in John o’Groats, self exclude, jump on an airplane to Land’s End, walk into a betting shop and will also be instantaneously self-excluded.”

Reaffirming his belief that responsible gambling is at the front and centre of Orchadia Systems’ operations, Finlay went on to discuss the company’s plans to introduce budgetary, time and sport constraints.

He explained: “Where we step it up even further is that we’re not just limited to self-excluded. In our development pipeline, we’re working on introducing budgetary constraints. If a player is paid on a Friday evening, they go to the pub and try back a few winners – but by Saturday morning, all of their wages could be spent.  

“What we’re planning to do is enable the customers to set constraints – whether that be budget, time, or even sport. These are the kind of problem gambling tools that the industry really needs.

“Self-exclusion is not really a viable solution under the current system. Orchadia Systems[2] aims to change that by bringing a proper, meaningful safer gambling environment to punters all over Ireland, the UK and on a global scale. We’re not stopping here in Ireland, we’re taking this even further – that’s where our aspirations are.” 

With it increasingly likely that fixed costs for bookmakers will increase in 2021 in the wake of the pandemic, the prospect of automated betting shops can act as a cheaper, easier way for betting operators to reach their audience. 

From a bettor’s perspective, these shops can remodel the entire customer journey, with increased opening times and easy-to-use SSBTs meeting the needs of the tech-savvy punter. 

So as the retail sector looks to bounce back from the events of 2020, staffless, automated betting shops could become the ‘new normal’.

References

  1. ^ SSBTs (sbcnews.co.uk)
  2. ^ Orchadia Systems (orchadiasystems.com)

Jersey government has ‘constructive meeting’ with French fishermen as Royal Navy ships prepare to leave

Jersey’s government has said it held a “constructive meeting” with protesting French fishermen in a bid to resolve a dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights.

The government said it had agreed to set up a forum with the fishermen on Thursday after a fleet of an estimated 56 French vessels arrived in Jersey[1] in the morning, following threats to blockade the main port of St Helier.

The UK sent two Royal Navy[2] patrol ships to the island “as a precaution” on Wednesday night and France sent a military vessel on Thursday on a “patrol mission”.

Jersey's assistant environment minister Gregory Guida (L) spoke to French fishermen from a boat
Image: Jersey’s assistant environment minister Gregory Guida (L) spoke to French fishermen from a boat

The UK government said it was “pleased that French fishing boats have now left the vicinity of Jersey” and the Navy ships were preparing to return home.

Island government representatives sailed out on a Jersey fishing boat to meet representatives of the French fishermen to hold 90 minutes of talks.

The French foreign ministry and the EU earlier accused the UK of breaching its Brexit[3] agreement with the EU over how fishing permits to access UK waters are being issued, with the French threatening to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply.

France said the UK had imposed new demands on licences to allow French fishermen to fish in Jersey’s waters, which were not arranged or discussed, but the UK had said they had failed to provide the data needed to approve their applications.

More on Brexit

French fishermen voiced their concerns over the new agreement with Jersey's government
Image: French fishermen voiced their concerns over the new agreement with Jersey’s government

Jersey’s chief minister, Senator John Le Fondre, said the French fishermen protested “peacefully and respectfully” and speaking directly to them “enabled both parties to better understand” how challenges of the new trade agreement can be addressed.

“We recognise that there have been challenges in the implementation of the new trade agreement,” he said.

“We are proposing the establishment of a forum which will enable the Government of Jersey to continue to engage with all fishermen in the region openly and constructively.

“I’d like to thank Deputy Guida and all the other parties whose work has enabled the French fishermen to leave Jersey knowing that they had been listened to and that a step has been taken towards resolving the issues that have arisen during the move to the new trade agreement.”

The fleet of French fishing boats were seen leaving Jersey waters after lunchtime. Pic: Diana Constable
Image: The fleet of French fishing boats were seen leaving Jersey waters after lunchtime. Pic: Diana Constable

The final Brexit deal, agreed on Christmas Eve last year, brought in changes to fishing agreements between the UK and the EU under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

It allows Jersey to place conditions on licences to fish in its waters under certain circumstances, with the Jersey government deciding on those conditions on the basis of “scientific evidence and historic fishing patterns”, the UK government said.

Two Royal Navy ships have been sent to protect Jersey from a blockade by French fishing vessels. Pic: Michael Bewley
Image: Two Royal Navy ships were sent to protect Jersey from a blockade by French fishing vessels. Pic: Michael Bewley

Since the new deal came in on 1 January, Jersey has issued 343 temporary licences to French vessels so they can continue fishing in Jersey waters.

But French maritime minister Annick Girardin said 41 licences approved on Friday were accompanied by new demands “which were not arranged or discussed, and which we were not notified about”.

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French boat rams British vessel

She said the demands set out where ships could and could not go, how long fishermen can spend at sea, and what machinery they can use.

The Jersey government said of those 41 French boats, 17 had been unable to provide the evidence needed to enable them to carry on as before.

References

  1. ^ Jersey (news.sky.com)
  2. ^ Royal Navy (news.sky.com)
  3. ^ Brexit (news.sky.com)

Lorry driver’s death could be linked to Liverpool ferry journey

A lorry driver who had to travel from Liverpool via ferry for work died after contracting legionnaire’s disease.

Kevin Budd, 53, was admitted to the Royal Stoke University Hospital on August 27, 2018, after holidaying in Skegness.

He complained about experiencing shortness of breath and died days later on September 2, 2018.

An inquest heard his cause of death was given as diffused alveolar damage, legionnaire’s disease, and leukaemia.

Stoke-on-Trent Live[1] report the dates and incubation period of the disease indicate he may have caught the disease during a work trip that took him through Liverpool.

His job also involved travelling to North Wales and Ireland.

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Speaking in conclusion of the inquest in Stoke-on-Trent, the jury forewoman said: “Whilst on holiday Mr Budd became ill with a cold.

“Returning home his condition worsened. His condition got worse and he was admitted to hospital on August 27, 2018.

“He was placed into critical care. He was ventilated and placed into a coma and never regained consciousness.”

She added that the jury concluded that the legionella came “from an unspecified area”.

Doctor Nicol Coetzee, a consultant specialising in communicable diseases, was notified that Mr Budd had received a diagnosis of legionella on August 28, 2018, and began an investigation to find the source.

This consisted of tracing Mr Budd’s movements over the days where he was most likely to have picked up the disease, and cross checking it with data from places he visited to see if any cases were active in those places at the time of his visits.

These included trips to Ireland via ferry, setting out from Holyhead to Dublin, and returning via Liverpool.

No traces of legionella were found in any of the places that Mr Budd had visited over the last six months, or within a six mile radius of his home address in Stafford.

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But on September 7, 2018, five days after Mr Budd passed away, the ship Stena Adventurer, which is in the fleet that runs the route from Holyhead to Dublin, undertook a routine water sampling which found extremely high levels of legionella.

In one sample, they were over nine times the level designated as unacceptable.

The ship was given a “super-chlorination” in accordance with normal procedure, in which chlorinated water is flushed through the whole system to clear out any unwelcome microbes lurking in the water supply.

Lesley Cave, who works for the county council regulating water supplies, confirmed that she was requested to undertake the inspection as part of normal routine and that after the procedure it had once more reached a safe and acceptable level.

Ms. Cave was unable to say if Mr Budd travelled on the Stena Adventurer, and the cleaning process meant that it was impossible to confirm if the strain found on the ship was the same that Mr Budd contracted.

However, no other potential contacts were traced during Dr. Coetzee’s investigation, leaving open the possibility that Mr Budd may have contracted the disease during his ferry ride from Holyhead to Dublin.

Speaking in a statement to the inquest, pathologist Dr. Karthik Kalyanasundaram outlined legionella. He said: “Legionnaire’s disease is a severe pneumonia.

“Although this disease is an uncommon form of pneumonia data have shown that it is 2 to five times more common in men than in women.

“40-50% of cases are related to travel.”

Mr Budd was born in Wokingham on August 20 1965 and worked in the armed forces for 25 years as an electrician before entering civilian life as an HGV driver, a job which involved a great deal of travel.

References

  1. ^ Stoke-on-Trent Live (www.stokesentinel.co.uk)
  2. ^ just click on this link to our newsletter sign-up centre (www.liverpoolecho.co.uk)

France sends patrol boats as fishing tensions flare with UK – KXLY

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LONDON (AP) — Vessels from Britain’s Royal Navy and French police boats patrolled Thursday near the English Channel island of Jersey, where French fishermen angry about losing access to waters off their coast gathered for a maritime protest.

The irate mariners set off flares and entered the island’s main harbor, in the first major dispute between France and Britain over fishing rights in the wake of Brexit.

The European Union appealed for calm, but also accused the U.K. of not respecting the terms of the post-Brexit trade deal agreed to by the two sides.

The naval policing boats Athos and Themis were sent to keep watch on waters between France and Jersey, French maritime authorities for the English Channel and North Sea said. The deployment came after Britain on Wednesday directed two naval vessels, HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, to also patrol the waters around the island, a self-governing British Crown Dependency near the coast of northern France.

French fishermen steamed into Jersey waters to demonstrate against new post-Brexit rules requiring them to submit their past fishing activities in order to receive a license to continue operating in the island’s waters. French fishing communities say some boats that have operated around Jersey for years have suddenly had their access restricted.

Dimitri Rogoff, who heads a grouping of fishermen, said about 50 boats from French ports along the western Normandy coast joined the protest Thursday morning, gathering their fleet off the Jersey port of St. Helier.

He said the protest over licenses for French fishermen was not an attempt to blockade the port.

“This isn’t an act of war,” Rogoff said in a phone interview. “It’s an act of protest.”

Jersey fisherman John Dearing said the scene off St. Helier was “like an invasion.”

“It was quite a sight,” he told British news agency PA. “It was impressive, I looked from the shore this morning and it was just like a sea of red lights and flares already going off at sea.”

French authorities said the patrol vessels were there to assist in any maritime emergencies.

“We would thus be capable of intervening rapidly should the situation worsen, which is not the case at the moment,” they said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.

The British government said its two navy vessels “would remain in place to monitor the situation as a precautionary measure.”

Opponents accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of escalating the crisis, and of using the fishing spat as an Election Day stunt. The story dominated newspaper front page on Thursday, as voters go to the polls in local and regional elections in England, Scotland and Wales.

There have been numerous bouts of friction in the past between French and British fishermen. The latest dispute, the first since Britain’s departure from the European Union last year, came after the island implemented new requirements that make fishermen account for their past work in Jersey waters to be eligible for a license to continue operating there.

Authorities on Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, said some of the French boats had not provided the right paperwork, and accused France of acting disproportionately after Paris threatened to cut off electricity to the island.

Jersey and the other Channel Islands lie closer to France than to Britain, and Jersey receives most of its electricity from France, supplied through undersea cables.

French maritime minister Annick Girardin warned Tuesday that France was ready to take “retaliatory measures,” accusing Jersey of stalling in issuing licenses to French boats under the terms of the U.K.’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

Jersey government officials met with French fishermen on Thursday in an attempt to end the dispute.

Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, said the French fishermen should be given more time to supply the information they need to get the permits but that no more concessions should be made.

“The real way to solve this is not by rolling over and giving French what they want,” he told the AP. “They want the conditions completely removed from the licenses.”

He said that if French fishermen had missing paperwork, “then they just need to go back to their government, not hold Jersey under siege.”

French boat spotted ramming British vessel at protest over fishing rights off Jersey

A French boat has been spotted ramming a British vessel at a protest off the coast of Jersey over post-Brexit fishing rights.

The footage of the boats colliding published by Sky News, came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent two Royal Navy ships to the Channel Island “as a precaution”.

Two French warships were also dispatched to the scene as tensions escalated after around 60 fishing boats turned up in the early hours threatening to blockade the island’s main port.[1]

HMS Severn and HMS Tamar are currently patrolling the waters around Jersey while French authorities sent military ships Athos and Themis to to “guarantee the safety” of the flotilla.

A spokeswoman for the French maritime authority said they were being stationed where they could intervene “as quickly as possible” if the situation worsens.

In the course of the protest a Jersey fishing boat was rammed by a French vessel, before the French fishermen headed back to France.

The fishermen are angry over lack of access to waters because of new licensing regulations curbing how long some boats could fish in Jersey waters and the type of equipment they could use.[2]

Of 41 boats Jersey was asked to authorise to fish off its coast, 17 vessels couldn’t prove their historical links to fishing in the area as required in the terms of the Brexit agreement struck last year.

Mr Johnson today spoke to Jersey’s chief minister John Le Fondre by phone to voice his “unequivocal support” for the actions taken by the island’s government.

French fishing vessels staging a protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights. Picture date: Thursday May 6, 2021. PA Photo. Dozens of French boats arrived at the harbour on Thursday morning, with some crews setting off flares during the so far peaceful protest. Two Royal Navy vessels, HMS Severn and HMS Tamar have been deployed by the UK Government to "monitor the situation" at the Channel Island. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Gary Grimshaw/Bailiwick Express/PA Wire

French fishing vessels staging a protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, in a row over post-Brexit fishing rights. Picture date: Thursday May 6, 2021. PA Photo. Dozens of French boats arrived at the harbour on Thursday morning, with some crews setting off flares during the so far peaceful protest. Two Royal Navy vessels, HMS Severn and HMS Tamar have been deployed by the UK Government to "monitor the situation" at the Channel Island. See PA story POLITICS Brexit. Photo credit should read: Gary Grimshaw/Bailiwick Express/PA Wire

French fishing vessels staging a protest outside the harbour at St Helier, Jersey, (Photo: Gary Grimshaw/Bailiwick Express/PA Wire)

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The chief minister updated the prime minister on the latest developments with French fishing vessels around Jersey’s coast.

“The prime minister reiterated his unequivocal support for Jersey and confirmed that the two Royal Navy offshore patrol vessels would remain in place to monitor the situation as a precautionary measure. They agreed to stay in touch as the situation develops.”

The EU has complained to Britain that the terms of its post-Brexit trade deal are being ignored in the deepening dispute over fishing rights off Jersey.

The European Commission said French fishing boats were facing “additional conditions” if they were to carry on operating, in breach of the terms of the agreement hammered out on Christmas Eve.

The row erupted after the Jersey government said French boats would be required to obtain licences to carry on fishing in the island’s waters under the terms of the trade deal with the EU which came into force last Friday.

The move provoked a wave of anger among French fishing communities who complained that some boats which had operated there for years were suddenly having their access restricted.

One reason the boats are struggling to obtain the licences is they have been asked to produce GPS data which some do not have.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said: “We have… indicated to the UK that we see that the provisions of the EU/UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement, that we recently agreed, have not been met there, have not been respected.”

ST HELIER, JERSEY - MAY 06: A French fishing boat with a protest sign opposing new fishing licenses on May 6, 2021 in St Helier, Jersey. Up to 80 French fishing boats sailed to St Helier Harbour at 07:00 this morning to protest new fishing licences issued last Friday by the UK. The licences impose a limit on the number of days the French can operate in the shared waters. Downing Street has sent two Royal Navy vessels down to monitor the situation and President Macron has also deployed military ships to ensure the safe passage of the French fishing boats. (Photo by Gary Grimshaw/Getty Images)

ST HELIER, JERSEY - MAY 06: A French fishing boat with a protest sign opposing new fishing licenses on May 6, 2021 in St Helier, Jersey. Up to 80 French fishing boats sailed to St Helier Harbour at 07:00 this morning to protest new fishing licences issued last Friday by the UK. The licences impose a limit on the number of days the French can operate in the shared waters. Downing Street has sent two Royal Navy vessels down to monitor the situation and President Macron has also deployed military ships to ensure the safe passage of the French fishing boats. (Photo by Gary Grimshaw/Getty Images)

A French fishing boat with a banner protesting new restrictions off the coast of Jersey (Photo: Gary Grimshaw/Getty Images)

Jersey’s external relations minister, Ian Gorst, said representatives of the island’s government were meeting the French fishermen in an attempt to defuse the worsening row.

“It’s important that we respond to threats, but the answer to this solution is to continue to talk and diplomacy,” he told BBC News.

Downing Street said it dispatched the two Navy ships following warnings French fishing boats could try to blockade St Helier.

Local fishermen reported around 60 French boats had gathered off the port on Thursday morning.

However, from around 1.30pm, many of them could be seen turning around and leaving the area.

One of the leaders of the fishing protest told i that the members of the flotilla intended to return to their home ports in Normandy and Brittany today once the meeting with the Jersey authorities had taken place.

Dimitri Rogoff, president of the Regional Sea Fishing Committee of Normandy (CRPMEM), said there was no intention by the French vessels to establish a blockade of St Helier, adding that the protest was aimed solely at allowing his members to express their discontent at the restrictions imposed by the new UK licences.

He said: “This is not some sort of frenzy, it is not a blockade. And [the protest] will finish after the promised meeting with the Jersey authorities. You are not going to see protesting Norman and Breton fishers wandering around the streets of St Helier.”

The fishing organisation, which represents some 1,500 French fishermen and shellfish growers operating 600 boats in the Normandy region, was one of the first to express anger when the new arrangments for fishing around the Channel Islands were unveiled last weekend.

Mr Rogoff said he was not concerned at the decision by London to deploy two Royal Navy vessels to Jersey. He said: “It’s normal that they should be there, it’s even reassuring.”

Earlier, Jersey fisherman Josh Dearing described the appearance of the French boats, some letting off flares, as “like an invasion” and welcomed the presence of the Royal Navy ships.

“We’re completely unprotected in Jersey. We’ve got nothing except for a few police officers. We don’t have a police boat, we don’t have a navy boat, we don’t have anything to protect us,” he told the PA news agency.

“The French can be hostile. All of our livelihoods are in that harbour and if they wanted to they could cause damage.

“They can blockade their own harbours – they wouldn’t think twice about coming and doing it to us.”

On Tuesday, French maritime minister Annick Girardin said Paris would cut off electricity to Jersey – which gets 95% of its power supply from France – if the dispute was not resolved.

Additional reporting by Press Association