UK bookmakers await results of government FOBT review
Bookmakers active in the regulated UK market will this week find out the results of a government-led review into fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The machines have been the subject of debate in the UK for some time now, with a number of campaign groups and politicians calling for the maximum stake to be cut from £100 (€113/$131) to just £2.
Dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ by critiques due to their addictive nature, FOBTs face something of an uncertain future, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the government unit leading the review, considering three options.
According to The Guardian newspaper, the DCMS may opt for the £2 maximum stake requested by many critiques and an approach supported by the Labour party, the largest opposition politician party in the UK.
However, the DCMS may also consider a reduction to £50, which the newspaper said would be “celebrated” by many bookmakers, or look at an option of setting a new maximum stake of between £10 and £30.
The DCMS report is due for publication early this week and will be followed by a 12-week consultation that will determine the ultimate decision.
Should the DCMS opt for the £2 maximum stake options, bookmakers are likely to campaign hard against this choice, with the Association of British Bookmakers estimating that this would lead to a loss of approximately 20,000 jobs across the UK gambling industry.
However, it is widely believed bookmakers have come to the conclusion that the current maximum stake of £100 is no longer viable on FOBT machines.
Last month, the Financial Times newspaper reported that Breon Corcoran, chief executive of Paddy Power Betfair, said in a letter to Tracey Crouch, Minister at the DCMS, the issue regarding FOBTs has become “so toxic” that decisive action is required to “address societal concerns”.
The letter said: “Whilst we are not aware of any evidence which links stake size to problem gambling, we are acutely aware of the increasing reputational damage to the gambling industry that has followed lack of progress in this area.
“We now believe that the issue has become so toxic that only a substantial reduction in FOBT stake limits to £10 or less will address societal concerns.
“I am confident we could operate our retail business successfully and profitability under such circumstances.”
“Other well-run operators should be able to do the same.”
Related article: Paddy Power Betfair backs proposed FOBT restrictions – report