The triennial gambling review will present “a number of options” regarding different aspects of the UK gambling industry, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has revealed. The government is expected to release the results from a year-long probe into the naton’s gambling industry later this month.
Ms. Bradley explained during a Wednesday meeting of the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee that the publication of the review will be followed by a 12-week consultation. The consultation period will allow MPs to discuss the review’s findings and any changes it would be recommending.
The triennial probe into the UK gambling industry was launched last October and its findings were initially expected to be made public in early 2017. However, the call for snap election and the ensuing political chaos in the country delayed its publication.
The review is primarily focused on the so-called fixed-odds betting terminals or B2 gaming machnes, as they are designated in the UK gambling law. Responsible gambling campaigners have long been calling for a significiant reduction of the maximum stake that can be wagered on the controversial devices from £100 to £2. They have pointed out that the machines are extremely addictive due to the fact that they offer players quick-paced high-stakes action.
Anti-gambling lobbyists, bookmakers with retail presence in the UK, and other involved parties have been engaged in a particularly bitter war of words over the past year since the government’s review was launched.
There were around 34,400 FOBTs spread across UK betting shops in the period between October 2015 and September 2016, according to official information by the UK Gambling Commission. Reports have emerged that bookmakers may have been clustering betting shops across the nation’s most deprived areas as a further testament to the risk the controversial machines pose to vulnerable members of the population.
Ms. Bradley signalled on Wednesday that a reduction of the maximum FOBTs stake will indeed be implemented, but it will be during the 12-week conslutation that MPs will be able to determine how much it will be cut.
The government’s review will set out several options before politicians to consider, with £2 being the lowest one. Amounts of £10 and £25-£30 have also appeared in media over the past several months in relation to the planned crackdown on FOBTs.
Here it is also important to note that the triennial gambling review is also dwelling on the potential introduciton of additional and more effective responsible gambling tools across the industry as well as possible changes in the way gambling services are advertised across broadcast media.
How Has the Industry Responded to the Looming Clampdown?
Most bookmakers with strong UK retail presence are quite understandably very upset by the possibility for the maximum FOBTs wager to be reduced significantly. They have pointed out that the move would result in massive betting shops closures and thousands of people being left unemployed.
Operators like Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill, which currently own UK’s largest chains of betting machines, are set to lose hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue if the maximum stake is slashed to £2. And independent bookmakers fear closure as a result from the move.
Late last month, Breon Corcoran, the outgoing CEO of Paddy Power Betfair, penned a letter to Sports Miniser Tracey Crouch to express his support for a cut of the maximum stake to £10 or less. The gambling executive pointed out that his company, as well as any other high street betting shop owner, will be able to survive a larger-scale crackdown.
Mr. Corcoran further wrote that the FOBTs issue has become so toxic that only a reduction of the maximum bet would appease growing social concerns.
As it could be expected the executive’s comments were received badly by other industry stakeholders. He was accused of trying to mask his “opportunistic commercialism” with societal concerns.