Today, the new maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) is to come into force. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has written to local bookmakers to remind them of their responsibilities to make sure that their customers are well-protected.
From today, the maximum betting stake available on the controversial gambling machines will be slashed from £100 to £2 per a single spin. The new rules regarding the FOBTs are being imposed by the UK Government as part of its efforts to reduce the risks that gamblers can lose large amounts of money in a short period of time.
However, the gambling operators that are highly dependent on the fixed-odds betting machines’ revenue have not been very happy with the change, claiming that the law change on the maximum amount that can be bet on such machines would be a hard blow for them. According to industry figures, the Government’s decision for the reduction will end up with the closure of up to one-third of the 8,500 high-street brick-and-mortar betting outlets.
In anti-gambling campaigners’ opinion, however, the number of possible betting shop closures is highly exaggerated.
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Still, a number of gambling giants, including William Hill and Ladbrokes have already reported that the FOBT maximum stake cut has already hit them. The owner of Ladbrokes Coral, GVC Holdings, has revealed its expectations to close approximately 1,000 of the gambling giant’s 3,475 betting outlets as a result of the machines’ stake reduction. William Hill, on the other hand, asked the landlords of its betting shop premises to help it deal with the negative impact of the cuts by reducing the rents with up to 50% in order to keep the shops viable.
Some of the largest bookmakers have already responded to the fixed-odds betting terminals’ stake reduction by getting more focused on online gambling. A number of them have already revealed their intentions to make larger investments in online gambling operations at the expense of retail operations. This, however, is not an option for smaller gambling companies, who have been worried that the new £2 maximum stake would seriously hurt their viability on the market.
New FOBT Max Stake Imposed after Massive Anti-Gambling Campaign
Fixed-odds betting terminals started operation in 2001 and turned into a big revenue stream for British high-street betting shops. According to estimates provided by the country’s major gambling regulatory body, the UKGC, the average gross gambling yield generated by the machines amounts to £1.7 billion.
Since then, the terminals have grown in popularity, with the legislation introduced in 2005 putting a limit of four machines per betting shops. This provision contributed to the clustering of betting outlets on high streets because local gambling operators were willing to boost their intake from the machines to the maximum, especially in areas of high demand.
As revealed by the latest December 2018 statistics published by the UKGC, there is an average of 3.9 fixed-odds betting machines, but in some towns, up to 7% of all shops in some towns across the country are bookmakers.
The rapidly increasing concern related to FOBTs has raised some concerns that the popularity of the machines makes more customers bet on the terminals, losing thousands of pounds. As insisted by anti-FOBT campaigners, the machines have been one of the main reasons for the quickly increasing problem gambling rates, with more and more people getting addicted to them by the hour.
A strong bookmakers’ lobby has managed to convince the Government to delay the implementation of the new maximum betting stake to October 2019, but a strong wave of criticism has hit the Government, including the resignation of the then-sports minister Tracey Crouch, made the Government stick to its initial plan.