A bookmaker has been arrested after the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) carried out an investigation into local fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). The Police initiated an investigation aimed to find out if FOBTs are breaching the gambling laws of Northern Ireland.
Now, it is the Public Prosecution Service that is to make a decision whether to press charges on the bookmaker, after a file has been sent after the investigation was completed. In case that the Prosecution office makes a decision that the case against the bookmaker is to proceed to trial, this would be taken as a case indirectly related to the legality of the FOBTs in Northern Ireland.
Currently, the fixed-odds betting machines on the territory of Northern Ireland amount to approximately 600. The controversial terminals were officially legalised in the rest of the UK in 2005, but the 2005 law is not applied to the territory of Northern Ireland. The last gambling law in the region was officially passed in 1985.
The local Police Service had redirected the case to the Prosecution office in relation to the region’s gambling law of 1985, and more specifically to two counts. The first one is about permitting a player of a fixed-odds betting terminal to receive excess winnings, while the other one is about charging a player an amount larger than the one permitted by law.
To date, the six largest bookmakers which operate in Northern Ireland, including Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, William Hill, McLean’s, Sean Graham and Toal’s, all offer fixed-odds betting terminals in their local shops.
FOBTs Issues in Northern Ireland
According to the last gambling law of Northern Ireland, the maximum stake of fixed-odds betting terminals should amount to 30p. According to the same piece of legislation, the maximum winnings that could be generated from a gaming machine are not allowed to exceed £8. Contemporary FOBTs, however, feature a maximum stake estimated to £100, as well as a maximum prize of £500. That stake, however, is to be reduced due to a nation-wide Government crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals, aimed to reduce the possible negative effects related to gambling.
As previously reported by Casino Guardian, fixed-odds betting machines have been a controversial topic in the region for some years now. They have been criticised due to the large maximum stakes allowed, the fast pace of the game, as well as their highly-addictive character. According to the opponents of the fixed-odds betting terminals, the maximum stake of £100 was too high, especially considering that it is allowed to be placed every 20 seconds, which makes it quite dangerous for gambling addicts and more vulnerable individuals, as they can lose as much as £18,000 in just an hour.
Many bookmakers have opposed the upcoming crackdown, saying that most customers use fixed-odds betting machines responsibly. They also argue whether the terminals are actual gaming machines.