Lower stake limit for FOBTs
It has been months in the making, but today marked the first day that fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) had the lower stake limit of £2 imposed. Bookmakers say the response has been slow with many surprised customers, but the UK Government insists this is best for gamblers.
FOBTs reviewed in 2018
The department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) decided last year to slash the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to just £2. The department’s review showed that gamblers had been able to lose up to £18,000 per hour on the machines when the stake was set at up to £100 per play.
While the lower stake is now in force, industry experts are concerned that the cut will lead to job losses within the gaming industry, and that gamblers will simply shift towards online gambling options to avoid the cap. Campaigners, however, have praised the introduction of the reduced limit.
The Safer Online Gambling Group is working with the owners of Coral and Ladbrokes, Sky Bet, GAMSTOP, and the Labour Party to bring forward reform in the gambling industry.
In a statement, the group said: “We can all agree that the Gambling Act of 2005 is outdated. A set of policies designed in the analogue age has outlived its purpose and requires reform. While we are not in favour of a predominately regulatory shake-up, we know that meaningful collaboration with gambling companies, the health and social care sector and addicts themselves can provide a powerful conduit to bring about progressive changes.”
Finding ways around the ban
There are some issues, however. The UK Gambling Commission has requested that providers do not attempt to find ways around the ban.
The secretary of state for DCMS, Jeremy Wright, said: “This is a significant step forward in protecting vulnerable people. The government’s actions and ambitions stretch much further and we are looking at further treatment of those who have suffered from gambling-related harm, whether gambling on credit should be limited and considering what actions are necessary to tackle problem gambling online.”
The maximum stake limit forms part of an effort to boost measures to protect consumers. The regulator is also looking at making changes to the types of gambling machines that are available for use on the high street.
MP Mims Davies said: “While we are not in favour of a predominately regulatory shake-up, we know that meaningful collaboration with gambling companies, the health and social care sector and addicts themselves can provide a powerful conduit to bring about progressive changes.”
The changes are being welcomed by the industry on the whole, with operators looking to regulators to help them make the industry safe for vulnerable players who could otherwise face difficulties.
One campaigner, Adam Bradford, whose father was sentenced to jail time after stealing from his employer to fund his gambling addiction, said the cap on fixed odds betting stakes marked a historic day for betting in the UK. He has concerns, however, that gamblers will seek to fulfil their addiction online instead.
He said: “We are effectively closing the door on gambling addiction on the high street, but quickly transferring the addiction to online betting. Over 50,000 young people are reported to be addicted to betting, many of whom do so online. More young people bet than drink or smoke, and online gambling is becoming a pastime of choice for under 30s.”
However, early reports today indicated that despite the high profile coverage many gamblers did not understand why their favorite games were changing with considerably lower stakes.
As reported in the Racing Post, John Heaton, chairman of Scottish independent chain Scotbet, said: on Monday: “Today we have had more complaints and walkouts, but there are people playing. It is impossible to say at this stage what the outcome will be.”
Online gambling looks to be the next area that regulators will be looking to address, with legislators already agreeing that current regulations are outdated. The UKGC has already announced tighter regulation when players sign up, with the introduction of new identity and age checks that will come into force in May.
The regulator will also be launching its new national strategy in May. The strategy has been developed in conjunction with consumer groups, gambling business insiders, and other industry experts. It aims to provide ways for operators to mitigate the level of harm their operations expose vulnerable gamblers to.
GVC has voiced its support for tighter regulation to protect users from gambling addiction. It said: “We were the first operator to call for the restrictions on TV advertising around live sports, as well as the extension of the £2 stake on FOBTs in Northern Ireland from 1 April 2019. We are pleased to see the industry has followed our lead on these important issues.”
April 1 was the first day of the new £2 limit on fixed odds betting terminals
FOBTs have had their play stakes cut from £100 to £2