Paddy Power Betfair and Betfred have withdrawn recently launched products from their UK retail estate following a warning from the Gambling Commission.
The Commission said it was concerned that the new products, widely described as roulette-style games, would undermine or circumvent the new restrictions on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The games that have attracted scrutiny are Paddy Power Betfair's Pick'n'36 and a cyclist racing game launched in Betfred's retail estate. In Pick'n'36, customers can stake up to £100 on a number between one and 36 being drawn. The game is a lottery-style product, with significantly longer draw times than on FOBT machines, that work to a fixed schedule of start times and can involve multiple players betting on the same event.
Betfred's game, meanwhile, involves two cyclists racing on a track that features the numbers one to 36, in the style of a roulette wheel. When the trailing cyclist catches the first, the number they are on is the winning number. The maximum stake for the game is £500, with consumers able to bet on a host of traditional roulette markets, such as odd or even numbers, colours, rows and columns.
Both required the customer to place their bet over the counter, meaning they are not machine-based.
A Paddy Power Betfair spokesperson told iGamingBusiness.com that the product in question was only being trialled, with the testing period now concluded.
“This game was introduced as part of a short trial in a selection of shops,” the spokesperson said. “The trial was ceased within 24 hours of commencement and this product will not be launched across our estate.”
The Commission has now stepped in to order that both products be withdrawn, while a third, unnamed, bookmaker has also been warned against launching a similar product.
As of April 1, the maximum stake on Category B2, or FOBT, machines operating across the UK is set at £2 (€2.35/$6.62) per spin, down from the previous limit of £100, with operators warned not to attmept to circumvent the stake cut. The Gambling Commission has already begun investigations into the risks assocated with B1 and B3 machines as it looks to ensure customers do not simply move from B2 to a different category of machine.
Despite Paddy Power Betfair and Betfred complying with the Commission’s request, both bookmakers could still face regulatory action as the Commission continues to investigate. Senior staff at each operator could be questioned over the decision to bring the products to market.
“We have been absolutely clear with operators about our expectations to act responsibly following the stake cut implementation this week, the Commission’s executive director for enforcement Richard Watson said. “We have told operators to take down new products which undermine the changes, and we will investigate any other products that are not within the spirit and intention of the new rules.”
Commission chief executive Neil McArthur has warned that the regulator has been monitoring operators’ plans to manage the implementation of the stake cut and will continue to observe licensees to ensure any changes or new product launches to mitigate the cuts are carried out “with a focus on customer safety”.
Image: Lee Davy