Paddy Power breaks ranks with UK bookmakers in advocating fixed odds betting terminals stake reduction

  • Bookmaker backs reduction in FOBT stakes to £10 or less
  • Government set to announce findings of FOBT review next month

Paddy Power Betfair has become the UK’s first major bookmaker to break ranks and announce support for widely-anticipated reduction of the maximum stake levels in fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Paddy Power chief Breon Corcoran is 'ambivalent' about the possibility of fixed odds betting terminal stakes reducing to £2.
Paddy Power Betfair chief Breon Corcoran was previously ‘ambivalent’ about the possibility of fixed odds betting terminal stakes reducing to £2. Now the call is for a reduction to at least £10.

According to a report in the Financial Times, the chief executive of Paddy Power Betfair, Breon Corcoran, has told the government that the image of FOBTs has now become so toxic that it is necessary for decisive action to be taken.

In a letter to the Governement’s Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport, Corcoran outlined the problem as his company sees it and expressed support for a stake reduction.

“Whilst we are not aware of any evidence which links stake size to problem gambling, we are acutely aware of the increasing reputational damage to the gambling industry that has followed lack of progress in this area.

“We believe that the issue has become so toxic that only a substantial reduction in FOBT stake limits to £10 ($13.40) or less will address societal concerns.”

Ongoing review

The controversial betting machines have long been the subject of widespread debate, and a number of campaigners and MPs have been urging the government to slash the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 ($134) per spin to £2 ($2.68) when it announces the results of an ongoing review next month.

Corcoran’s letter follows a report in the Financial Times earlier in September, which said that Paddy Power Betfair could be in line for a £10 million revenue loss if the FOBT stake is reduced, and Barclays have estimated that a reduction to a £10 maximum stake could cost Paddy Power Betfair as much as £32 million.

But although the company is set to take a hit in the event of the proposed reforms, Paddy Power Betfair’s stake in FOBTs is much smaller compared to its rivals.

A recent city forecast estimated that even if the stake were reduced to £25 – a figure which is unlikely to satisfy most anti-FOBT campaigners – William Hill could lose £55 million in revenue for 2018 and Ladbrokes Coral could lose as much as £87 million.

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) has claimed that should the stake maximum reduce to £2, then half of the bookmakers’ estate of 9,000 shops could close, taking with them 21,000 jobs and £1 billion in taxes up to 2020.

But the ABB has also claimed that bookmakers must accept a reduction if evidence exists that problem gambling rates will improve.

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