Today, the UK Government published its final decision on the review of controversial fixed-odds betting machines (FOBTs) and social responsibility measures. As part of the review, the Government announced its resolution to cut the maximum stake allowed on the local gaming machines from £100 to £2 only.
A few months ago, the Government released a consultation on gaming machines and social responsibility measures which took place from October 31st, 2017 to January 23rd, 2018. The main objective of the FOBTs review was to make sure that the right balance is found between a constantly growing sector and social responsibility under which local customers and communities are to be protected from harm. The UK competent authorities have been focused on minimising gambling-related harm in order to protect more vulnerable individuals and providing them with adequate professional assistance to deal with possible negative consequences from gambling.
As shared by the Sports Minister Tracy Crouch at the time when the announcement was made, the crackdown imposed on fixed-odds betting machines would reduce harm exactly for the most vulnerable members of society.
The Government’s decision was delayed several times. In March, the major gambling regulatory authority – the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) – published an advice recommending the maximum FOBTs stakes to be reduced. Following the official resolution of the Government on the matter, the Chief Executive Officer of the UKGC Neil McArthur praised the authorities for the support given to customer protection measures and confirmed that the Commission is set to continue acting in terms of reducing the risks associated with gambling.
British Bookmakers Not Happy with the Decision
British bookmakers, however, have previously warned that a reduction of the FOBTs’ maximum stake could seriously hurt their performance. Gambling operators across the country have said that the crackdown would probably end up reducing their profit, not to mention the fact that it could lead to the closure of thousands of sports betting shops in the UK.
The UK Sports Minister Crouch explained that the Government realises the possible impact which such a crackdown could have on companies’ revenues dependent primarily on the machines, but also reminded that the industry was flexible enough to be able to adapt to the legislation and regulatory landscape changes.
One of the largest gambling companies in the UK – William Hill – described the Government’s resolution as “unprecedented” and explained that 900 of its betting outlets could generate losses, which on the other hand could lead to massive lay-offs. The operator also projected that its full-year operating profit could decline by an amount in the range from £70 million to £100 million. For the time being, FOBTs have accounted for more than half of William Hill’s retail revenues in the country.
GVC Holdings, which has recently acquired Ladbrokes Coral, also came up with a warning about its future results. The Government’s decision to slash the amount of the maximum stake allowed at FOBTs forced the company to reduce its expected profit by approximately £160 million.
The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), which has previously opposed a possible crackdown on the industry, now warned that the decision would probably have a detrimental impact on the local bookmakers, with more than 4,000 betting outlets expected to close and about 21,000 employees in the industry set to lose their jobs.