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Old 1st May 2014
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Lightbulb A missed opportunity on FOBTs, says Campaign for Fairer Gambling

A missed opportunity on FOBTs, says Campaign for Fairer Gambling

30th April, 2014

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling believes the Government has missed its biggest opportunity to date to make a real impact on tackling fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) – the high-speed, high-stake gaming machines in bookmakers throughout Britain.

Despite mounting evidence of problem gambling and the negative socio and economic impact associated with FOBTs, the Government has this week stopped short of implementing a stake reduction on the addictive roulette machines, which allow gamblers to gamble £100 every 20 seconds. It will now wait until October to announce any further developments.

The measures, announced today in a Government release, include a change of planning powers for local authorities to control the number of betting shops opening in their area, as well as plans to attempt to improve player protection on FOBTs, which include staff interaction if £50 or more is staked on one play of the addictive gaming machines.

Planning and Localism:

A spokesperson for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “The Government has decided to exclude betting shops from a new town centre use class, which would require bookmakers to apply for planning permission in retail areas. However, there is no reason why bookmakers, seeking to open a new premises, would not appeal any local authority decision to refuse planning permission. The powers are also not retrospective, so will not deal with the present issue of clustering on our high streets.

“This measure could also have the unintended consequence of creating a ring of betting shops in residential conversions, just outside the periphery of town centres. With Local Authorities powerless to act against this trend, it could easily be considered to be worse than additional centre clustering.

“In addition, local authorities also need powers to be able to close an existing betting shop if found to be in breach of the Gambling Act 2005 licensing objectives. To be able to do this Local Authorities need to rely on the Gambling Commission or the Police to support them. However, as these bodies are both under resourced and betting shops, which are often single staffed, are left to monitor themselves. The current system is facilitation rather than regulation.”

Player Protection Measures:

A spokesperson the Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “A problem gambler is unlikely to admit to a member of staff that they have a problem. They may lie to a member of staff about how much they can afford to lose in order to then load the machine with more than £50 before they start playing, or during the session if they want to chase their losses. Lying is a common trait amongst gambling addicts, who are used to lying to their families and friends about the extent of their gambling habit. This measure is therefore unlikely to deter problem gamblers or those at risk of developing a problem.

“For similar reasons, this measure will not deter money launderers who will lie about their intentions, claim they are going to gamble but then play with minimal risk and cash out. To prevent recognition, they could still move from shop to shop.

“Professor Robert Williams from the University of Lethbridge has argued that staff training is the most common means of ensuring player protection, but the least effective. Increased interactions will not mean increased player protection, especially as staff often have their bonus pegged to their shop's profits. Indeed, BetFred has linked pay directly to revenue from FOBTs.

“The suggested Government changes to the bookmakers code of conduct, which are not evidence based, cannot deliver the licencing objectives of the 2005 Gambling Act.”

Stake reduction to £2 is the only solution:

The Campaign remains firm in its belief that the only means of protecting the young and vulnerable, at-risk gamblers from harm is by limiting their potential losses on addictive game content. The most effective measure would be to reduce the maximum stake per spin to £2. This would bring FOBTs into line with all other easily accessible gaming machines on the high street.

A spokesperson the Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “There is no reason why the maximum stake should be above £2 per spin, the level it is at on machines in pubs, bingo halls and adult gaming centres. Capping the maximum stake at £2 per spin is a measure that the public agree with. According to a recent YouGov survey, 73% want to see the maximum stake of £100 a spin cut, and 61% want to see it cut to £2.

“The DCMS announcement shows that the Government has recognised that there is a problem, but these small steps show out of touch they are with the voting public and does not mitigate the harm caused by FOBTs. It appears the Government has changed as little as possible in order to try and get the issue off the agenda.

“Wider issues have not been addressed within these measures, including use of FOBTs for money laundering, single staffing within betting shops as well as tackling the inadequate funding for available for research, education and training on problem gambling.

“The Campaign will continue until it prevails with its objectives to reduce the stake from £100 to £2 per spin and to remove the impact of addictive, high-speed, high-stake roulette content.”


Lucy Knighton Senior Account Executive
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