UK Gambling Commission Recommends £2 and £30 FOBT Bet Limits
The UK Gambling Commission gave the government of the United Kingdom its approval to cut the stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2. FOBTs have been called the “crack cocaine of gambling” by anti-gambling activists.
The UK’s gambling regulator also called for a limit on the size of bets for FOBTs which offer casino-style games, such as the most popular form of FOBT gaming, electronic roulette.
In the case of roulette machines, the Gambling Commission called for single bets to be limited to £30.
The Gambling Commission’s report stated, “At the heart of our advice is an aim to reduce the risks that consumers, especially those that are vulnerable, face from gambling. We think that action — from government, the Gambling Commission and operators — is needed to achieve that aim.”
The recommendations received praise from some gaming watchdog groups, though Labour MP Carolyn Harris said the measure does not go nearly far enough.
Recommended Cut to Gaming Machine Stakes
The report argued that the suggested cut to the gaming machine stakes should not be the only action taken. Instead, additional resources should be instituted into law to help problem gamblers.
The UK Gambling Commission‘s report added, “While the package which we are recommending includes a stake cut for Category B2 gaming machines, our advice is clear that any serious attempt to reduce the risk of harm must not rely solely on a change to the stake limit for one product, which only 1.5% of the population plays each month.”
“The package should include, for example, action to improve the tools available to customers to help them to manage their gambling.”
UK Gambling Industry’s Dread
The recommendations come after months of anticipation by the British gambling industry on a joint report by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the UK Gambling Commission. Fixed-odds betting terminals have been under increasing scrutiny over the past couple of years after several scandals involving gambling addiction, player suicides, and lax oversight by UK gaming companies.
A growing chorus of politicians, activists, and citizens groups have called for a significant limitation of the amount of betting on FOBTs. Currently, bets are limited to £100 every 20 seconds at the terminals.
Potential Losses of £18,000-per-Hour
Critics of FOBT gaming say that amount is far beyond an ethical level, as it allows bettors to spend £18,000 an hour on their gaming habit. Industry sources note that the return-to-player on FOBT roulette is 97.3%, so most gamblers do not lose £18,000 — or anywhere near that amount.
Still, problem gamblers who use FOBTs in British gambling shops face mounting debt. In a few high profile cases, 20-something British citizens with their whole life in front of them committed suicide, due to the stress, depression, and debt caused by problem gambling.
In other cases, British citizens stole hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund their compulsive gambling.
High Profile Scandals
The United Kingdom’s gambling industry hurt its own public standing by looking the other way while problem gamblers lied about their affluence. The UK Gambling Commission began ramping up fines against gaming companies which did not provide satisfactory oversight, including 888, Gala-Coral Group, Ladbrokes, and William Hill.
Fairer Gambling, a British watchdog group which campaigned for an end to FOBT roulette machines and an across-the-board reduction in B2 gambling machine stakes, said in a press release, “The Gambling Commission is giving the government free rein to determine an appropriate stake. We are confident that when the evidence has been reviewed, £2 a spin will be considered the most appropriate level.”
Carolyn Harris Criticizes UK Gambling Commission
Not every notable figure interested in the public debate over FOBT machines was as complimentary of the government’s response. Carolyn Harris, a Labour MP from Swansea who chairs an all-party parliamentary group that investigates FOBTs, said she was disappointed in the recommendation for £30 FOBT roulette machine gambling.
Harris, who has called for a £2 limit on all FOBTs, including roulette machines, said of the recommendations, “I think it’s a bit of a cop out if I’m honest, they’re covering their own backs. The Gambling Commissioner hasn’t shown any backbone. It’s really, really short sighted and taking the coward’s way out. They have a history of not being very strong when they come up against the bookies.”