- Review of fixed odds betting terminals recommends reduction in maximum stake
- Four options range from £2 to £50
- But after a long-awaited review – still a 12 week consultation and no concrete result until way in to 2018
The UK government has announced that the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) is set to be cut significantly after the publication of a long-awaited review into the industry.
The, review, carried out by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), under minster Tracey Crouch MP was originally due to be published in June but was delayed by the General Election.
The findings of the review were finally released on Tuesday morning and include four options for cutting the maximum stake of the controversial machines, which currently stands at £100.
The machines have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ and are found in high street betting shops. Due to their ease of access and ability to allow punters to stake £100 every 20 seconds, the machines have been singled out for their contribution to problem gambling figures.
The options set out by the government range from as little as £2 per stake, up to £50, with £20 and £30 also suggested as possible ways forward.
The maximum stake levels, along with other measures will now be subject to a period of twelve weeks consultation before the government makes a final decision.
Huge pressure on a stake reduction
The bookmaking industry had lobbied the government extensively in a bid to prevent a reduction in the FOBT stake, claiming that if it were cut to £2, the industry would lose 20,000 jobs and the government would be deprived of about £1 billion in tax revenue up to 2020.
But the opposition Labour party and a number of campaign groups have pushed for a maximum stake of £2, which would bring FOBTs in line with traditional arcade games.
FOBTs were introduced to the UK in 2001, but following a liberalization of the gambling laws in 2005, their numbers increased dramatically and it is estimated that there are now around 34,000 machines in the country.
According to the Labour party culture spokesperson Tom Watson, the failure of government to regulate FOBTs was a mistake: “We didn’t know how these FOBTs could be so powerfully addictive, and how people could lose so much money so fast on them, he said.
“Labour committed in our manifesto to a £2 stake. At the moment a gambling addict can lose £100 every 20 seconds on these machines, if they can lose £25 every 20 seconds that doesn’t go far enough.”
In response to the review, the Association of British Bookmakers said that the vast majority of the industry’s six million customers gamble responsibly and that the average amount of money lost per session on an FOBT is £9.17.
They also claim that hard evidence is needed that cutting stake sizes on FOBTs must have the effect of reducing problem gambling overall, not simply push those problem gamblers to the many other forms of gambling that are available to them.
Given that there is now a consultation that will carry on until nearly the end of January 2018, the debate look set to continue.
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