It’s been the talk of the UK gambling industry for the past few months – what is the Gambling Commission going to do about tackling gambling addiction? Only a few days ago we reported on the immense pressure that the government was facing from gambling charities. However, certain MPs who have been campaigning for the reduction in maximum bets on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) have been left exceptionally disappointed. Why? Because the regulatory body of the UK failed to recommend a reduction to £2 on the most controversial of these.
Roulette is one of the games that is exceptionally popular on these FOBTs, and for those terminals, the Commission recommended a reduction in maximum bets to £30 or less. On the other hand, its recommendation for slot games via these terminals – which are actually a lot less popular than roulette – should be reduced to £2.
This recommendation from the regulator of the country is considered to be one of the most important and influential submissions to undergo review by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS). Prior to this, the DCMS said it would reduce the maximum bet from £100 to somewhere between £2 and £50.
However, following the revelation of the Gambling Commissions recommendation of £30 or less, the Labour party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson – who stands as a figure against FOBTs – stated how disappointed he was. He said that the Commission appears to have “caved in” to pressure from the gambling industry. Furthermore, he marked the FOBTs as the “hidden epidemic” behind the UK’s problem gambling and further rallied for the government to cut all machines to £2 per bet.
Further Response to the Decision
It wasn’t only Watson who expressed his disappointment at the result. Another Labour MP, Carolyn Harris said the same thing. Despite this, she said that she is still confident that the government will be able to “see past this” and then continue to do what is morally right.
Of course, there will be at least some people happy with the recommendation – mainly high street bookies. It is they who have brought forth the biggest argument against the reduction of maximum bets. Naturally, with over half of their annual revenue coming from FOBTs, this was to be expected. High street bookmakers have claimed that a reduction to £2 has a strong potential to close shops and in the process, cost people their jobs.
The Gambling Commission also recommended several other measures to tackle problem gambling though. This included greater usage of what is known as “tracked play”. This sees betting patterns be monitored in order to identify and locate problem gambling behaviour. Chief Executive of the Commission, Neil McArthur went on to state that tackling this issue is always at the centre of the company’s work. He said that a stake cut on FOBTs alone does not go far enough to be able to protect those players who are vulnerable. This is why the Commission recommended both a cut in the maximum stake and a selection of other measures to put in place.