Paddy Power chief executive not worried about shackles to fixed odds betting terminals

  • UK bookmaker open to change, suggests group chief
  • Comments made as FOBT review put back on table

The chief executive of Irish betting group Paddy Power Betfair has told how his company is “almost ambivalent” to the upcoming possible Fixed Odds Betting Terminal (FOBT) reforms which are currently being debated by UK politicians.

Paddy Power chief Breon Corcoran is 'ambivalent' about the possibility of fixed odds betting terminal stakes reducing to £2.
Paddy Power chief Breon Corcoran is ‘ almost ambivalent’ about the possibility of fixed odds betting terminal stakes reducing to £2.

The Government is expected to hold a review into the impact of FOBT betting, which has been linked with high incidences of problem gambling, and with significant loss rates.

Pressure groups and opposition politicians want to reduce stakes on FOBT games to prevent high losses.

Bookmakers have been opposed to the idea of reducing FOBT stakes, fearing their revenues would be irreparably harmed. Some betting groups rely on FOBT bets as the largest proportion of their income.

The Government has resisted making changes to FOBTs, despite the calls for reform.

While some bookmakers, such as Paddy Power, are now showing lukewarm support for possible changes, there is debate in Parliament as to whether any review will even take place.

Bookmaker looks for positives in FOBT action

Chief Breon Corcoran actually sees some benefits for the bookmaker, if the FOBT crackdown begins in earnest.

“The more extreme the limits on stakes, the more pain our competitors take – if you think of this as a zero-sum game, that plays strongly to us,” he told GamblingCompliance recently.

Rivals William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral receive the largest proportion of their revenues from FOBT wagers, the Times reports.

While the figure is still significant for Paddy Power Betfair, they make more from traditional wagers – both online and offline – than from FOBT bets.

Reducing the maximum stake for electronic fixed odds machines could level the playing field, or leave the market leaders playing catch up.

Paddy Power Betfair chief steps down

Breon Corcoran is stepping down from his role as CEO of Paddy Power Betfair, it was announced last week. He will be replaced by Peter Jackson, one of the group’s independent directors, later this year. However, it is business as usual for Corcoran until then – and he will remain active in the group as one of its stakeholding directors.

“I look forward to watching the continued success of Paddy Power Betfair as a shareholder,” Corcoran concluded in last week’s press release.

The outgoing chief executive is skilled at weathering difficult times, having brought Paddy Power back from a share price slump with the successful 2016 Betfair merger. He has also succeeded in securing a 21% revenue boost during 2017’s first half. While some may say the chief’s ‘ambivalence’ towards possible FOBT action is due to passing the burden of responsibility to someone else, his retained stake ensures he still has Paddy Power’s best interests at heart.

A shrewd business mind, Corcoran’s apparent lack of concern over bet reductions could be taken as a positive sign for the industry.

Leading politician adds voice to calls for FOBT clampdown

Action on FOBT stakes could be on the cards very soon, as the debate in Parliament took another twist this week. Former Conservative Party leader and government minister Iain Duncan Smith is backing calls to reduce FOBT stakes to £2 ($2.50) per bet.

His comments come after a study by the Centre for Social Justice concluded that high FOBT stakes are increasing the risk of problem gambling and significant financial harm, especially among vulnerable people.

The independent study gives some insight into what an official Government investigation is expected to conclude.

The results of the FOBT review will be published in October at the earliest, say Government sources. The Daily Mail has reported that the review has been shelved by Chancellor Philip Hammond, though officials have dismissed these claims.

While most parties including Labour, the DUP, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have called for cuts to FOBT stakes, the Conservatives have been resistant. They fear loss of revenues would harm businesses – something which many betting operators agree with. Now pressure from inside their own party, from a leading minister who isn’t afraid to make his voice heard, could force the hand of the Government and push the FOBT review through.

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