It’s been quite some time coming, but the moment when fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in the United Kingdom will have their maximum bet level reduced to £2 has almost arrived. Set up as part of an attempt by the government to tackle the machines, which it described as being like gambling’s “crack cocaine”, the decision on reducing their maximum bets was made last year.
Yet, reports have been made that there hasn’t been any sort of efficiency check put in place to ensure that the plan is working. This, along with various land-based betting shops petitioning for alternative measures to halt declines in revenue, could pose a problem for the UK government.
Prior to the introduction of these new laws surrounding FOBTs, the machines were accessible for players to place maximum bets of £100 per turn. Even with the reduction to £2 on these terminals, though, experts have another fear – that users will simply take the choice to move on to other forms of gambling. This could become just as dangerous as the threat posed by FOBTs, they have explained.
Even though this is a risk that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is aware of, the company has not done any sort of work to be able to track how gamblers’ behaviour may change following the new rules. What’s more, it doesn’t have any intention of introducing such measures, either.
What Would This Mean?
In essence, it may not really seem necessary in the short-run. With the reduction on FOBTs in place, something has been altered in the industry. But, without proper follow-ups, it could mean that the policy will prove to be totally ineffective.
Speaking of the adjustment to the FOBTs and their maximum bets, Professor Heather Wardle, who is one of the leading experts in gambling behaviour, was happy about the alteration on the terminals. Yet, she expressed concern over “such a huge regulatory change” not having any sort of evaluation so as to “better understand the full range of outcomes”.
Ms. Wardle said that the only possible way to have this understanding is by talking to the users of such terminals themselves. By doing so, you get to see how the alteration in the FOBT law is actually affecting them and if they have a motivation to change their gambling behaviour.
As it happens, with a three-week period to go before the stake cut comes into operation, the DCMS did release a report that details certain flaws in the government’s plans. This report, it was revealed, has been left around for one year, which is most likely why the DCMS released it fairly quietly. In the report, the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) displays information which suggests that even though bookies will lose out when the FOBT stakes are cut, it will possibly bring other parts of the gambling industry good news. Why? Because if players do shift their behaviour, then around £440 million will be going to other areas of the gambling sector. And even that figure could be an underestimate.