Bookies brace for big hit as Government caps FOBT stakes at £2

Top stake for fixed-odd machines is slashed to £2			
				 
   by Joel Taylor 
  Published

THE maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will be reduced to £2 under new rules unveiled by the government reports the BBC.

The decision deals a blow to companies such as William Hill (WMH.L) and GVC (GVC.L) who had argued that the terminals were a major source of income for high-street betting shops which are struggling to stay afloat as younger gamblers move online, putting jobs at risk.

The decision follows a consultation launched in October past year after complaints that the machines were highly addictive and had led to gamblers building up big losses.

Under previous rules, betters can betup to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic casino games such as roulette.

Bookmaker William Hill warned the decision could see around 900 of its betting shops become loss-making, with a "proportion" at risk of closure shortly after the new £2 limit comes into effect.

The reported decision by United Kingdom officials to significantly reduce betting amounts on FOBT machines shows the hard task regulators have in balancing service provider interests with addressing the growing threat of problem gambling issues, and could very well spark a new round of Mergers & Acquisitions across the industry. Following analysis of consultation responses and advice from the Gambling Commission, the government believes that a cut to £2 will best achieve this. These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all.

The Gambling Commission has also been tasked to take forward discussions with the industry to improve player protection measures on B1 and B3 category machines, looking at spend and time limits.

Figures published by stopthefobts.org show that there are 57 FOBTs in 16 betting shops in Wrexham; with over £8m inserted into the machines locally in 2016.

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The group said the stake cut could also hit annual earnings by between £70m and £100m.

But campaigners concerned about the social impact of FOBTs pressed for a reduction to a maximum stake size of £2.

Philip Bowcock, chief executive of William Hill, said: "The government has handed us a tough challenge today and it will take some time for the full impact to be understood, for our business, the wider high street and key partners like horseracing".

UK customers lose an estimated £2 billion per year placing real money wagers on the machines, which has caused a surge in "problem gambling" cases, says UK Gambling Minister Tracy Crouch.

However, that convenience also makes the machines one of the biggest revenue generators in the gambling industry that supports roughly 40,000 jobs in the United Kingdom alone.

'Of course, there is more work to be done, but the government has made the right decision'.

Public Health England will carry out a review of the evidence relating to the public health harms of gambling. The Bill fell before it could complete its passage through Parliament when the government called a snap General Election a year ago.

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