UKGC Recommends FOBT Stakes Be Cut to £30 for Roulette

The UK Gambling Commission has made its official recommendation to the government for the reduction of the maximum bet on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) across the country.

The review by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will suggest that for slot games the maximum amount a player can stake should be reduced from £100 to £2. However, for roulette, by far the most popular game on FOBTs, the recommendation is a reduction from £100 to ‘£30 or below’.

The £30 maximum bet will be viewed as a good result for bookmakers who rely on heavy customer losses on FOBTs to make up half of their annual revenue. Gambling companies had warned of shop closures and job losses if the maximum stake was lowered to £2 and have been lobbying hard for a less drastic cut in recent months. Shares in William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral rose around 4% following the news.

Fixed odds betting terminals in a high-street bookmaker's shop

Fixed odds betting terminals in a high-street bookmaker’s shop. ©The Guardian

The Commission also recommends banning the facility for machines to allow different categories of games to be played in a single session, and making tracked play, a system which monitors playing patterns and losses to identify problem gambling, mandatory across a wider range of machine categories.

Neil McArthur, the UKGC’s chief executive, said that tackling the issue of problem gambling is about more than a maximum stake.

In our judgment, a stake cut for fixed odds betting terminals alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people. That is why we have recommended a stake cut plus a comprehensive package of other measures to protect consumers. Neil McArthur, Chief Executive, UK Gambling Commission

McArthur added that the proposed actions will provide sustainable solutions that are more effective in the longer term.

A spokesperson for Fairer Gambling told The Guardian: “The Gambling Commission is giving the government free rein to determine an appropriate stake. We are confident that when the evidence has been reviewed, £2 a spin will be considered the most appropriate level.”

Tom Watson, Labour Deputy Leader and vocal opponent of the gambling industry, said that the Gambling Commission has simply passed the buck to ministers in a statement on his Facebook page: “Today’s Gambling Commission recommendation that the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals be reduced from £100 to £30 or less does not go anything like far enough. It simply passes the buck to ministers.

“But, if we are to tackle the hidden epidemic of gambling addiction in this country, we need decisive action. We need to reduce the maximum stake on electronic casino games like roulette to £2, and introduce slower spin times.

“I sincerely hope ministers do the right thing, but I fear they will cow-tow to the powerful lobbying of the betting industry which generates £1.8bn a year by putting the health of its profits before the health of its customers.”

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