New Consultation for Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals Delays Decision

The long-anticipated Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) review unveiled that the maximum bet for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will drop to between £2 and £50, but a final decision has been delayed until January, falling short of shaking up the industry as some MPs and charities had demanded.

Tracey Crouch, minister for the DCMS, made the announcement that the existing limits which allow players to stake up to £300 a minute are inappropriate. The report also warned that even reducing the limit to £50 would make “minimal change to the status quo”. Options of either £20 or £30 are also on the table but sources say the most drastic cut to £2 is likely.

Tracey Crouch.

Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford.

High-street bookmakers had warned that shops will be forced to close if the current stakes are cut. The betting companies will now lobby for the upper £50 limit during a 12-week consolation period. A final decision will be made at the end of January.

The review was labelled “deeply disappointing” by Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, who has previously called for stricter regulations to be implemented on FOBTs and bookmakers. He said: “There’s an old maxim that the bookies always win, and they’ve won again today.”

Watson had previously called for a new gambling levy to cover the NHS costs of the “destructive cycle of gambling addiction” present in the UK today. The UK Gambling Commission has reported that 43% of people who use FOBTs are either problem or at-risk gamblers.

Ministers have squandered a real opportunity to curb highly addictive FOBTs, which can cause real harm to individuals, their families and local communities. After months of delays, they’ve simply decided to have another consultation. Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

The speed at which customers can place bets is also under fire, and the DCMS is considering decreasing the current speed of FOBTs, which allows bets to be placed every 20 seconds. Other areas of practice that were reviewed involve the clustering of betting shops in areas of high unemployment and poverty, and the current ‘four FOBTs per shop’ rule.

Figures from GambleAware, the UK’s leading support and advice service for problem gambling, reveal that 233,000 FOBT players lost more than £1,000 in a single sitting last year. Around 650 people lost more than £5,000 and a handful of people lost more than £10,000.

Bookmakers in the UK made income of more than £1.8bn last year. About half of this revenue came from FOBTs. The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said that cutting the minimum stake to £2 would cost the Treasury more than £700m a year in gaming duty and around 20,000 jobs across the country. The online gambling industry was also reviewed as part of the DCMS report. The fast-growing sector now has more than seven million customers, earning the operators as collective £4.5bn last year.

The review was originally scheduled for release in June but was delayed due to the snap election called by prime minister Theresa May.

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An image of UK gamblers playing at FOBTs in a bookmakers shop

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