In a widely anticipated and welcome move, the UK Government have announced tougher measures on bookies like William Hill on the high street and their fixed odds betting machines (primarily roulette).
A £2 cap on bets could be brought in for FOBTs (fixed-odds betting terminals). Conservative MP for Chatham & Aylesford and Sports & Civil Society Minister Tracey Crouch has launched a review into fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT’s) somtimes called the “crack cocaine” of gambling,
At the moment, punters can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds. The MP is calling for the top stake to be brought down from £100 down to £50, £30, £20 or £2, and to reduce the spin speeds.
Bookies made around £1.8bn from these machines last year which accounts for over half of their revenues.
In reply, the Association of British Bookmakers claimed moves to restrict FBOT’s would cause a 20,000 job hit to the industry and affect the Treasury’s income from tax which was over £700m last year.
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals came onto the UK betting market scene back in 2001 when gambling tax was changed.
The government has requested information from the Gambling Commission about how technology and monitoring of play on these machines could help identify problem gamblers and block them from playing.
This could reduce large losses on the machines.
Fears On Bookie Lobbying
There are fears that the bookies are lobbying heavily following a session in which MPs were pushing arguments for the bookmaker, highlighting the steps betting shops are taking to protect problem gamblers. Some MPS emphasized the weight of these businesses as employers.
The gambling industry is a powerful organisation with plenty of resources and friends in parliament. It is thought that there are around 34,000 FOBTs in the UK which make up to £1.4bn in profits every year for bookies. It’s a big money, high stakes game.
There are fears that a less than vigorous clampdown on FOBTs may just shift the problem elsewhere- to amusement arcades, bingo halls and pub chains for example. There are plenty of unregulated games online like Lightning Speed Blockchain Roulette that could benefit from this kind of crackdown so, while the moves are to be commended, they will need to be implemented in parallel with restrictions in other areas.
These kinds of outlets already have their own versions of gaming terminal (under the B3 licence).
GambleAware claims that more than 2.5bn bets are placed on amusement arcade, bingo hall and pub machines every year, compared with 1.9m bets on the bookies’ terminals.