British Government to Cut FOBT Max Bets by 98%
In a move designed to control problem gambling, the British government today announced it would impose regulations which would cut the maximum bet size on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from 100 to 2. This has caused a harsh response from gaming shop operators across the country, with threats of shop closings and thousands of lost jobs as a result of the action.
The decision to drastically slash the maximum bet comes on the heels of a report issued by the UK Gambling Commission in March, in which after careful review the regulator recommended a maximum bet size of $2 for FOBT slots games and up to $30 for non-slots games on the same terminals. Citing the increase in gambling addiction, the Gambling Commission noted that these FOBT, the “Crack cocaine” of gambling, allow players to bet up to $100 every 20 seconds.
Not surprisingly, the reaction from the sports betting shop operators was swift and painted a very gloomy picture. BetFred claims that this decision will turn the majority of their shops into money-losers overnight, and will cause the loss of up to 4,500 jobs. William Hill, one of the country’s largest bookmakers, say that the decision will cost the company so much money that hey could be at risk of a takeover from an international company and it could cause the loss of upwards of 20,000 jobs currently held by British citizens.
Despite the resistance and pleas from the bookmakers, the government has chosen to sacrifice tax revenue in an attempt to lower the cost of tackling problem gambling. FOBTs accounted for just shy of 2 Billion GBP a year in revenue, creating a 400 Million GBP tax grab for the government. IN defense of the move, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“Sometimes in politics, you have the chance to really do something to help people and, in particular, this case to help some very vulnerable people – hundreds of thousands of people who lose thousands of pounds on these machines.”
BetFred’s Managing Director Mark Stebbings, in his response to the decision, was quoted as saying
“This decision will result in unintended consequences including direct and indirect job losses, empty shops on the High Street, and a massive funding hit for the horseracing industry.”
Our Take on the News
At GamblingSites.org, we have seen this type of decision before, and in many cases, it has backfired on the government. We are all fully aware of how easily a player can access an online casino, and these days you don’t need a credit card to do so, simply purchasing a prepaid card with cash is good enough to get you on the slots right from your phone. Reducing the maximum bet by such a huge amount all at once seems to be a drastic measure – we are curious to see how much of the 1.8 Billion in annual revenue comes from players betting 100 a spin. Perhaps a more measured approach would have been smarter, giving the government a chance to monitor the situation rather than put all these jobs in jeopardy.
And let’s make something very clear here – those who want to gamble will find a place to do so. At least while they are sitting in a seat at a betting shop, they can be identified as problem gamblers on the spot. Driving the problem behavior off the street and back into people’s homes will not serve to solve the problem, only to make it less noticeable on the High Street.
We are certain that this is not the end of this story, so we’ll keep you posted on anything new that transpires.
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