UK Government to Review Bookmaker’s Gambling Machines
The United Kingdom has announced plans to review the gambling machines that have become prevalent in the bookmaking shops operating in the region. These machines, known as fixed-odds betting terminals, have been heavily criticized since their introduction. There have been many claims that they fuel problem gambling and can increase the risk of addiction.
Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) are electronic machines that allow players to bet on the outcomes of a range of games and events with fixed odds. They typically feature casino table games such as roulette. Many of them also offer simulated horse racing and greyhound racing, bingo, and slot games. The maximum stake for any single wager is £100, and the maximum payout is £500.
FOBTs were first introduced into bookmaking shops back in 2002. They were an immediate hit among customers, and it wasn’t long before the major bookmakers had them in most of their shops. In recent years, they have received a lot of negative publicity. FOBTs have been labeled the “crack cocaine of gambling”, and there have been several stories of people becoming addicted to them.
In defense of their machines, the bookmakers have questioned why they should be viewed any differently to other forms of gambling such as online casinos or bingo sites. The Association of British Bookmakers has previously pointed out that the machines have been around for nearly 15 years without any notable increase in the levels of problem gambling.
The government has acted against FOBTs before. In 2015 there was a change in regulations that stipulated players wishing to stake £50 or more could only fund the machines by paying money to shop staff. However, the general consensus was that this change was far too insignificant.
There are no guarantees that any further action will be taken following the review. An outright ban is certainly considered unlikely, due to the contributions that FOBTs make in the associated taxes. A reduction in the stakes and payouts, or the number of machines allowed per shop, is a distinct possibility.
The review was announced on Monday by Tracey Crouch, the Sports, Tourism & Heritage Minister. It’s officially entitled “Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures”, and will include a review of gambling operators’ advertising practices. The focus is likely to be firmly on FOBTs though, judging by these extracts from Crouch’s statement:
- “The review will be considering robust evidence on the appropriate maximum stakes and prizes for gaming machines across all premises licensed under the Gambling Act 2005….”
- “The review will include a close look at the issue of B2 gaming machines (more commonly known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – FOBTs) and specific concerns about the harm they cause…..”
Crouch also state that she wanted to “ensure that legislation strikes the right balance between allowing the industry to grow and contribute to the economy whilst ensuring consumers and communities are protected, including those who are just about managing.”
The Labour party have been critical of FOBTs for some time, and they were quick to respond to Crouch’s announcement. Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader, had the following to say:
“Labour welcome this review, which is long overdue. We have been calling on the government to take action on the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals for many years. The government has finally woken up to the fact that it has not done enough to curtail the proliferation of Fixed Odds Terminals, which are now a blight on many of our high streets.”
Watson went on to say that Labour wanted to see the minimum stake reduced from £100 down to just £2. That would be a big step for the government and the Gambling Commission, and would definitely be met with opposition from within the industry. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that any action taken will probably be far less drastic. Either way, we’ll know soon enough. The outcome of the review is expected to be made public early next year.
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