Campaigners “delighted” by government decision to slash betting machine stakes to £2
The government has revealed proposals to cut the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2, following a review into the gambling sector.
In March, the government was advised by the Gambling Commission that it should limit the stakes to between £2 and £30, and it has opted for the “lowest end” of this range, citing that there are “consistently high rates of problem gamblers among players of these machines”.
A report from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport notes that over 170,000 roulette games on FOBTs “ended with losses between £1,000.01 and £5,000” and that these sessions “persist at average stakes of £5 and £10”. In contrast, none of the games involving such significant losses used stakes of £2 or less.
25-year old Adam Bradford, who has campaigned for stricter gambling controls on FOBTs after his father hid a 30-year gambling addiction, has welcomed the decision. “We are delighted that the government has finally seen sense on this important issue,” he told Alphr. “No longer will gamblers be able to run into serious trouble on the High Street and betting has been restored to a leisure activity.”
It’s not clear when the new rules will come into effect, but bookmakers have warned that the changes will likely have a significant effect on business.
In a statement, William Hill acknowledged that around 70% of its gaming machine revenue this year had been generated by stakes in excess of £2 and that as many as 900 of its shops (38% of all its retail space) could become “loss-making” after the changes are implemented. Following the announcement, the company’s shares fell by 2.55%. GVC Holdings, which owns Ladbrokes and Coral, estimated that the first-year impact on takings could be as high as £160m. Its shares also took a dive of 2.35%.
Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party and shadow secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told the BBC’s Today programme: “For five years now pretty much everyone in Westminster, Whitehall and in the country has known that these machines have had a very detrimental effect in communities up and down the land…The bookmakers have chosen to take a defiant approach, trying to face down parliament, really, with a very aggressive campaign.”
Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “A simple message to the bookies and gambling lobby on FOBTs today: if your entire business model is based on exploiting addiction and making vulnerable people destitute on machines that are fixed against them then it isn’t a business model, it is a model of vulture capitalism”.
Kenneth Alexander, CEO of GVC Holdings, said: “Although we are ultimately disappointed with the outcome of the Triennial Review, it is a decision we accept. The uncertainty has weighed heavy on the industry and the many thousands of people who work within it. Our focus now is to work with government to build a constructive relationship that will ensure a positive future for the sector and the many millions of customers who enjoy our products responsibly.”
Image credit: Jeff Kubina