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Maximum bet now two pounds on FOBTs in the UK

Tue, Apr 2, 10:19am by Staff Writer

The betting industry in the United Kingdom is bracing for dramatic reforms to its fixed-odd betting terminals.

Casino.org is reporting that the industry relies heavily on the machines, drawing more than half of their retail revenues from them.

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission has moved swiftly to hasten the impact of gambling on the nation, with the maximum odds on the machines cut from £100 (A$183) to £2 (A$3.67).

It is the culmination of two years of regulatory reviews and legislative debate that has been hotly contested.

Culture secretary Jeremy Wright announced the reforms to the controversial machines in November, saying that a number of senior Conservative Party figures added their named to an amendment designed to force the government’s hand.

“The government has been clear that protecting vulnerable people is the prime concern, but that as a responsible government it is also right to take the needs of those employed by the gambling industry into account and provide time for an orderly transition,” Mr Wright said.

In his budget announcement in late October, chancellor Philip Hammond said the change in betting limits per spin would be implemented in October 2019, angering campaigners and politicians who say the machines are too addictive and contribute to social problems.

The bookmaking industry is undoubtedly facing a huge loss of revenue from the stakes cut, but the government is hitting them even harder, by increasing the taxes on online gambling to plug the shortfall in revenue losses.

It is a double whammy for the bookies, who are claiming 4,500 shops will close and 21,000 people will lose their jobs.

“The change in implementation dates [from October to April] will clearly be a blow for the licensed betting office sector, but it is frustrating that no consideration at all seems to have been given to the fact that this also means the online gaming sector could now face an additional tax hit of around £100 million, over and above the expected £200 million-plus a year it had already been saddled with,” head of the Remote Gambling Association Clive Hawkswood said.

The Racing Post reports that the regulator has already written to a fixed odds beting terminal supplier to warn that a game developed specifically for the new regime – which restricts stakes but gives players the opportunity to gamble the entirety of their winnings at any time – is non-compliant.

The UKGC has said they have been closely monitopring the operators’ plans to manage the implementation of the stake gut.

“It’s imperative that operators invest in and use data, technology and measures to identify harmful play and can step in to protect players when needed,” the regulator added.

While lobbying against the reforms last year, the Association of British Bookmakers suggested the curb would impact jobs and dent the existing 8,400 betting outlets.

Last week, The Guardian visited Birmingham, where betting shops in the city centre had been trialing the £2 reduction since last March, so operators could better understand its impact.

The reporter discovered that customers’ attitudes to the new machines were “mixed”, while outlet managers spoken to largely described the impact on business as “noticeable but not devastating.”

“We’ve lost a bit of business but it’s not too bad,” said one.

You’d be surprised how people kick off. They’re saying, ‘I lost all my money last week and now you’re stopping me winning it back’.”

Maximum A$1 bet in Australia rejected

In 2016, Wesfarmers’ Coles wanted to reconfigure its pokie machines to trial A$1 bet limits.

This was met with furious opposition from Woolworths, which operates nearly four times as many pokie machines in Australia.

New South Wales is the most pokie-impacted state in Australia with over 92,000 machines and maximum $10 bets.

Losses in New South Wales have increased to more than A$6 billion annually according to the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

Eight years ago the Australian Productivity Commission recommended the Government bring in maximum A$1 bets on pokie machines.

The proposal was never taken up following an intense campaign by the clubs and the gambling industry.

Anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello welcomed the UK’s initiative and thinks Australia should follow suit.

He argued governments should be embarrassed by the UK’s action, given then Productivity Commission’s calls for maximum A$1 bets.

“If you ever ask the public it is always over 70 per cent ‘we hate them’. So it is really politicians within the industry who are opposing what the public wants,” he said.

Costello went as far as to compare pokie machines in Australia with the American gun lobby stating, “The NRA in America has captured politicians, the pokies lobby has captured politicians (in Australia).

Staunch anti-gambling advocate Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said he hopes the UK’s move would increase pressure on Australian governments to introduce similar measures.

“The Federal Government has it within its power to legislate A$1 maximum bets, as well as other harm minimisation measures like mandatory pre-commitment,” Mr Wilkie said.

“Unfortunately, the Government has shown itself to be thoroughly uninterested when it comes to reining in poker machines,” he said.


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