Minister brands reports FOBT review to be scrapped as ‘fake news’

  • Minister Tracey Crouch dismisses reports that review was scrapped
  • Philip Hammond’s office says review not due before October 2017

The Sports & Civil Society Minister Tracey Crouch has branded reports that Chancellor Philip Hammond is to scrap a review into Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in the UK as ‘fake news’.

On Twitter the 42-year-old referred to a Mail Online story that the Chancellor was to axe the review as ‘fake news’ but the Treasury is yet to make a public comment on the issue.

The long-awaited review into FOBTs is due to be published in October or soon thereafter, putting end to the debates over use of FOBTs which has been in stalemate for some time.

The review will determine whether there is a negative impact to consumers where FOBTs are in use in high street bookmakers and whether limiting bets on these machines could reduce problem gambling.

Tracey Crouch Philip Hammond
Tracey Crouch and Philip Hammond.

Mixed opinions in UK on FOBT use

Electronic betting terminals have been linked with rising rates of gambling addiction, because of the speed at which a player can make high-value bets, and because of the lack of human intervention during play.

Gamblers can lose thousands in a matter of minutes, with one study identifying 650 occasions where players had lost more than £5000 (about $6500) in a single game session. To reduce the risk, several political parties have called for the maximum bet on FOBTs to be reduced from £100 to £2.

However, bookmakers argue that FOBTs are not the biggest risk to gamblers, and that removing or capping them will harm profits.

The high street betting shop is already in decline, with players preferring online casino services or mobile casino apps. Some predict that removing or reducing FOBT income will finish off the struggling industry for good.

A review into the industry by the government will provide a clearer picture of the impact of FOBTs – providing some direction for the debate. If there is no evidence that FOBTs are contributing to problem gambling rates, their use is likely to continue unchecked.

If they are to blame, the government will vote on whether to curb their use entirely, or limit their bet prices, to improve consumer safety. If the Chancellor has indeed scrapped this review, there will be no significant change to FOBT use for the foreseeable future.

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