Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in the News — Weekly Round-up for November 3, 2017

Bookies Brace For F.O.B.T. Review (Update)

Speculation on how big, not if, cuts to betting limit will be

British bookies are braced for the release of the UK government’s Fixed Odds Betting Terminal review this week, following widespread speculative coverage in the English mainstream press.

Virtually every big newspaper has carried the story, claiming that DCMS minister Tracey Crouch will release the review Tuesday, and speculating on what they think it will contain.

The consensus appears to be that there will be cuts to the current GBP 100 maximum betting level, and that the number of machines allowed in each retail betting shop will be reduced.

The government will open a 12 week consultation window following the publication of the review, most report.

Speculative reportage on how drastic the deposit cut will be range from as little as GBP 2 though to GBP 20 and GBP 50, but in truth none of the publications involved really know what the government has decided.

The cuts and machine number reductions could have a considerable impact on tax revenues, because bookmakers enjoy almost 56 percent of their profits from the machines, and this figure would clearly be adversely affected by the rumoured cuts.

The more dire warnings on the consequences have included falling share prices, the probability of shop closures, job losses, a reduction in the annual GBP 700 in taxes due to government, lower subsidies for racing, and reductions in adspend.

Some observers claim that the publication of the review could also trigger a new wave of corporate consolidations, pointing to recent reports of negotiations between GVC Holdings and Ladbrokes Coral, and between William Hill and The Stars Group.

The report is also expected to include responsible gambling provisions with wide implications.

F.O.B.T. Max Bets Will Be Cut By At Least Half (Update)

UK government releases its gambling review

Bookmakers can anticipate a cut in the maximum bet permitted on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals of at least 50 percent, according to the UK government’s review of gambling published today (Tuesday).

The long awaited report leaves the exact size of the cut in abeyance pending the results of a 12-week consultative period, but a cut there will be, with the review suggesting that the maximum bet allowed should be between GBP 50 and GBP 2 (the current level is GBP 100).

There are now around 34,000 FOBTs across the UK and it is estimated that 1.5 million people have used them.

A spokesperson for the Association of British Bookmakers told Sky News:

“Betting shops cater for over 6 million customers every year and the vast majority of them gamble responsibly.

“The average amount lost on a betting shop gaming machine in a session is just £9.17…

“Betting shops are investing very significant sums of money to help identify those at risk so that they get the help that they need.”

The Reuters news agency reported that bookmaking company profits will take a “massive” hit from the reduction.

Other elements in the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DDCMS) review include:

* Raising standards of player protection for online gambling;
* Creating a responsible gambling awareness campaign, with an annual budget of GBP 5-7 million – probably funded by gambling firms;
* New advertising guidelines around gambling;
* Reducing the number of FOBTs per retail betting shop.

DDCMS minister Tracey Crouch said in a statement Tuesday:

“It is vital that we strike the right balance between socially responsible growth and protecting the most vulnerable, including children, from gambling-related harm.

“Given the strong evidence and public concerns about the risks of high stakes gaming machines on the high street, we are convinced of the need for action. That is why today we have set out a package of proposals to ensure all consumers and wider communities are protected.

“We have seen online gambling grow rapidly and we need to protect players in this space, while also making sure those experiencing harm relating to gambling receive the help they need.”

The review also addressed the fast-growing GBP 4.5 billion-a-year online gaming sector, calling on online gaming companies to speed up the pace of initiatives to prevent problem gambling, including “self-exclusion” schemes.

“The government, and [industry regulator] the Gambling Commission, will be paying close attention to industry progress in this area and will act accordingly,” the review advises, warning that if improvements can not be achieved through cooperation with the sector, legislation strengthening the regulator’s hand will be considered.

Whilst the review did not meet anti-gambling activist demands for restrictions on gambling advertising, it does introduce the idea of public problem gambling awareness campaigns funded up to GBP 7 million a year by gambling firms.

Government will also support efforts by problem gambling charity GambleAware to launch more specialised clinics to assist compulsive gamblers…possibly funded by a levy on gambling companies.

DDCMS will now consider proposals over the 12-week consultative period and within the broad framework it has recommended; that suggests that there will be extensive lobbying and media coverage in the months ahead.

William Hill On FOBT Triennial Review (Update)

Severe FOBT stake cuts remain a concern

William Hill has weighed in on the UK Government’s gambling reform package saying while it welcomes their acknowledgement of the importance of social responsibility measures and the industry’s contribution to the wider economy it remains concerned that potentially severe stake cuts in FOBT’s remain an option.

The company indicated it will play a full part in the consultation process to “ensure an evidence based outcome”.