Neil Goulden is set to leave his position as chairman/interim-CEO of Gala Coral Group in January, to be replaced by Marks & Spencer’s Carl Leaver and Debenhams’ Rob Templeman. Goulden is staying on as a Coral consultant for the next three years, but he also plans to become something of ‘an advocate for the industry’, according to a wide-ranging interview Goulden gave to the UK’s Daily Mail.
Goulden told the Mail that while the UK gaming industry employs some 250k people, punitive tax rates are discouraging companies from expanding their payrolls. “We pay more in tax than we make in profit … For every £1b we make, we pay £600m in tax.” Goulden claims this has led to a thousand people in bingo losing their jobs over the past two years, but that unlike manufacturing jobs, “no one cares about people in bingo.”
Goulden also takes issue with the bad ink the press traditionally devotes to the statistical minority who abuse gambling, noting that there are “16m people clinically obese, 6m people with an alcohol problem and 230k problem gamblers – yet gambling is seen as such a terrible problem?”
Addressing the tumultuous financial year that Gala Coral just endured, in which the company underwent a painful restructuring that cost private equity firms some £670m – and Goulden himself some £10m – Goulden is philosophical, at least about his own losses. “It’s life. You just get on.” Goulden insists that the company itself is in good shape, its 17k employees and £1.1b turnover making it “a significant business.”
Goulden also reveals a sociological quirk of the bingo biz. Only 11% of the people who play bingo online have ever set foot inside a physical bingo club. Moreover, the online bingo demographics are evenly split between men and women, while the clubs are 85% female. So men really are like that old joke about fat chicks and mopeds – quite content to ride either, so long as their mates can’t see them enjoying it.