Betting shops are central hubs for many bettors to visit during the week. Whenever a favourite sporting event is taking place, it offers them the chance to wager on it. Plus, they get to socialise with other likeminded people inside. That’s been a common service that betting shops provides to punters.
The government highlighted the social aspect of these venues in a 2013 report. Even so, people inside the betting shops aren’t likely to talk about the safety of the shops they’re in.
It’s an interesting question to ask, though. After all, there must be at least a significant amount of money kept in a betting shop. Of course, these venues are a target for thieves, as news reports come up often enough. They usually state that a betting shop has suffered a robbery or some other crime.
Even in these instances, how do betting shops protect the money they have on site? Do they have specific security in place? Unlike casinos, they don’t have security guards at the doors or roaming around the floor. Yet they should have something else to protect customers and their money. Let’s have a look at the setup that betting shops have for money security.
Are Betting Shops Less Vulnerable Than Casinos?
There is little doubt that betting shops have less money on site than casinos do. Does that fact make them less vulnerable to attacks, though? As it happens, thieves tend to target betting shops more than casinos. Why? Because they often don’t have the same level of protection in place.
Casinos use security guards and many cameras to track everyone inside. They have stringent casino rules that halt many potential criminals before they enter. The majority of their money remains stored in a vault behind the scenes. That vault is safe and secure, and thus, so is the money inside.
Thieves and other criminals likely see betting shops as much easier targets as a result. Yes, they may not maintain as much money as casinos, but they have enough for some. There have been frequent stories about criminals targeting betting shops for cash. A Coral bookmakers in St. Leonards, Sussex was one recent victim of such. In January of 2023, a man walked into the shop and demanded money from staff. He got away with a quantity of cash from the shop.
There have been some attempts at casino heists in the past, too. Yet they often aren’t as successful as those occurring within betting shops. It thus begs the question of what these venues actually do to keep things safe and secure.
Back in 2016, The Guardian reported that betting shops are prime targets for robbers. According to the police, this is due to two things:
- Large cash transactions taking place.
- Lightly staffed shops.
Because of this, almost 40% of all serious crime in the UK targeted betting shops in 2016.
Protections Currently in Place for Betting Shops
In 2015, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) outlined various measures. It highlighted these as things it had done to ensure the safety or betting shop customers. There was a plan there for further moves, which would help to reduce crime rates even more. It was one year prior that the ABB uploaded its Safe Bet Alliance. They worked as guidelines towards strengthening security within those shops.
That document actually came about in 2010, but wasn’t published until years later. The guidance within contained standards for betting shop door designs. It also featured electronic locks, time-delayed safes, and the plan to keep minimal cash on premises. Secure areas where staff could retreat to, if need be, were also included in the guide. One other addition was the need for at least one CCTV camera for each shop. This would capture images of people when they arrived and departed.
The ABB announced the effectiveness of the guidance and changes from it. Back in that year, the police noted that betting shops had the lowest level of crime. At least, compared to other high street retail sectors. Of course, it was only a year later that The Guardian contradicted that idea. Is it effective for betting shops to keep less money on the premises?
Well, without a shadow of a doubt, the less money present, the less there is to steal. A betting shop should have enough to cover general customer spending and payouts. Yet there is also a max amount that they can payout in cash. Thus, if you are a big winner, you’re likely to receive it in the form of a bank transfer instead. At other times, big winners have had to return a few days later for it in cash. That would be to allow the bookie to get the cash from their bank account, it would seem.
Despite the fact that the premises don’t hold a huge amount of cash, they have certain security. CCTV is always in operation, which keeps a close eye on everything happening within. Unlike a casino, there won’t be a team watching this at all times, though. This is because the activity within betting shops isn’t quite as fast and furious. Tricksters can work at a fast pace in casinos, which is why many cameras are present. At betting shops, only one or two cameras will be there to watch over customers.
Another addition to land-based betting shops is the screen at the cashier desk. This is like the screens found in some off-licences or even in casinos. It places a barrier between the betting shop server and customers. Usually, employees have a door code to enter to get inside the screened-off area. This then locks behind them and adds an extra layer of protection.
Any Plans to Up Betting Shop Security?
There is a certain knowledge there that betting shops aren’t as secure as casinos. With the crimes that take place there on a more frequent basis, what could change? How could security at these venues adjust to improve conditions?
One suggestion has been to stop bookmakers pushing into poorer areas. Research suggests that high street betting shops are more prominent in these zones. In 2017, a question asked if councils could stop this from happening. Yet the answer was a resounding negative. Local authorities reported feeling helpless with the rise of betting shops in impoverished areas. Even after refusing planning permission, this did little to halt advances.
Yet the fact remains that poorer areas of the country suffer from higher crime rates. People turn to theft and other illegal acts to try and make ends meet a lot of the time. This spirals out of control and they become a frequent thief. Some betting shops bear the brunt of this more than others do. Despite this, bookies didn’t seem bothered enough to stop opening in these poor zones. That remains the case today. In 2021, reports suggested that betting shops were 10 times more likely to appear in poor areas. Thus, it is clear that there is no desire to provide better protection this way.
Yet suggestions on changing anything else about betting shops are thin on the ground. It seems as though the powers that be believe they are secure enough as it is. Yes, it’s ideal to have limited money on the premises, without a doubt. That hasn’t stopped betting shops from being the target of robbers, though.
Instances of Betting Shop Security Crimes
It may be the case that you’re wondering about instances of betting shop heists. There are many of these that have taken place over the years. We thought we would focus on a couple of high-profile episodes.
In 2018, a betting shop in Thanet, Kent was the scene of an armed robbery. Tyler McNeill, 26, and Daniel O’Reilly, 39, burst into the bookies carrying imitation firearms. Both had masks on, and video camera footage showed them appearing to threaten a member of staff. They demanded that she fill their bags with cash and warned her they were holding guns. As a result, assistant manager Natalie Solari did as they asked.
Yet, there was a lot more to this crime than meets the eye. Solari herself was a part of the whole scheme. As the two men hurried her along, shouting abuse at her, she filled their bags. It was only afterwards that she pressed the shop’s panic alarm button before hiding. While under a desk, she “sobbed uncontrollably”, according to witnesses. The two men fled the scene in a Renault Megane, driven by someone else. They had escaped with around £11,000 in cash. Or at least, they thought they had.
Police managed to link Solari to the two men when phone data displayed that McNeill called her on the day. She was then arrested in December of 2018, alongside getaway car driver, Simon Bennett. It took a couple of months more to find and arrest McNeill. Then, O’Reilly went through an interview with police in May of 2019.
One more instance of betting shop robbery occurred in 2013. On the evening of January 25, a bookies in Crownhill Road, Plymouth suffered a robbery. Alan Levers, a 50-year-old man, was no stranger to criminal activity. He had a whole history of offending, going way back to when he was only 13. His record displayed convictions for burglary and assault all the way back to 1976.
Levers had already done jail time in 2006 but got out in November 2008. At that point, he was on a reducing methadone prescription. Unfortunately, his heroin addiction was only replaced with alcohol.
Committing crime was something he seemed to fall in line with on a constant. Yet the robbery of a Ladbrokes 10 years ago was his very last. Walking into the bookies at about 7:30pm wearing a gas mask, he held out a gun and demanded money. Adam Davies was the cashier working that evening and thought it was some sort of joke at first. The few customers inside were also shocked by the scene unfolding in front of them. Yet they weren’t about to allow someone to get hurt. A couple of them swung into action, turning the tables on Levers.
They tackled him to the ground before going on to alert the police. Armed officers swooped into the Ladbrokes and cordoned off the area. Yet it seems as though the event was to finish the criminal’s life off for good. An inquest after the failed robbery sought out answers on how he died.
This said that chest compression, restricted breathing and alcohol intake were all to blame. It was while shop customers were restraining Levers that he suffocated in his gas mask. Upon the arrival of police, they administered CPR to Levers, but it was too late.