The fate of UK fixed odds betting terminals to be decided in October

  • The UK Government will delay its decision about possible FOBT maximum bet reductions until October
  • High street betting shops sweating over potential slashing of revenue

Last year the government in the UK announced they’d be reviewing fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in the country amid pressure from politicians and the public on the perceived damaging effects.

Theresa May's UK general election call is to delay a report on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.
Theresa May’s UK government will delay a decision on fixed odds betting terminals until October.

A report published early this year recommended reducing the maximum stake to just £2 ($2.50) from £100 ($129).

In the most recent development, the government’s Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (DCSM) announced the review would be pushed to October, which was met with mixed reactions.

Budget vs. gambling losses

Fixed odds betting terminals are found in most betting shops in the UK and the most popular game played via these terminals is a computerized version of roulette.

Proceeds from some 34,000 FOBTs across the country amount to around £400 million ($517 million) in taxes on a yearly basis, which is very significant for the UK Treasury.

At the same time, it is estimated that players in the UK lost £1.8 billion playing these terminals.

These machines are capable of eating up thousands of pounds in a few minutes of play and can lead to addiction, which is the most important argument of those advocating the reduction of the maximum stake.

High stakes politics

The Conservative Party, which is in government, led by prime minister Theresa May, hasn’t come out in favor of reducing the maximum stake.

However, the new political climate in the UK after the recent general election has forced them to enter an agreement with the tiny Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose members are strongly for the proposed changes.

To keep their majority in the parliament, the Conservatives must make certain concessions to the DUP, which has only ten of 650 MPs – but a enough to secure the majority in the House of Commons.

Politicians, including the opposition Labour Party, which backed a £2 maximum stake in its general election manifesto, are putting on the pressure. Carolyn Harris, Labour MP said: “Losses on FOBTs are spiralling out of control. Every year more and more is lost on these addictive machines, so the next government must act to reduce the maximum stake to £2 a spin.”

On the other hand the Association of British Bookmakers warned that changes like this could have far-reaching consequences as they deal with an industry that caters to more than six million customers and provides employment for 52,000 people.

The ABB has already expressed their concerns that this type of a reduction could lead to a loss of 20,000 job posts and they hope that the Government will be open to working with them in creating any significant changes, looking at the issue from all relevant aspects.

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