Bookies warned over likely FOBT stake cut

Bookies warned over likely FOBT stake cut

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 Posted by Scott Longley
Cut would likely lead to widespread shop closures

The debate surrounding of the regulation of gaming machines in UK bookmakers and what the potential maximum stake for them should be would appear to be reaching a conclusion and the “mood music” would suggest the bookmakers should be prepared for the worst.

Just this week there have been reports that ex-culture secretary John Whittingdale, at a meeting of the Association of British Bookmakers, suggested the government might take the “precautionary principle” with machine stakes and take the opportunity of the current triennial review to take “radical measures” on stakes.

There is speculation in political and lobbying circles that the government is looking at recommending a stakes cut to either £10 to £20 with the first the more likely, according to Steve Donoughue, a consultant to the gambling industry and an adviser to the all-party parliamentary group on betting and gaming.

Speaking to TotallyGaming.com, he said that he felt that the arguments regarding FOBTs now boil down to just how much the government will look to reduce the higher stake limit for B2s which currently stands at £100.

In a speech given the Westminster eForum last week, Donoughue warned the gambling industry as a whole that the FOBT debate had “poisoned the well when it comes to gambling.”

“I deal with politicians on a daily basis; they don’t know what fixed odds betting terminal is, they don’t care, they didn’t get into politics to deal with gambling. What they do know is gambling is a problem. Why they know it’s a problem is because they read it in the Times, they read it in the Daily Mail, they read it in the Guardian.”

The degree to which the industry will be harmed by a reduction in maximum staking levels has been the subject of much debate with dire warnings from the industry that as many as half of the country’s current high-street bookmaking estate could be in danger of closing down should the worst happen.

Ahead of the recent Cheltenham Festival, the chief executive of Ladbrokes Coral – arguably the most exposed of the high-street operators given its debt load – told a local London paper that over half of the existing betting shops in London might close should the government heed the calls of the campaigners and bust the stakes limit to £2.

Donoughue was slightly less apocalyptic, suggesting that a stake cut to the potentially preferred option of £10 would likely result in the closure of 2,000 shop nationwide.

He went to suggest that the findings from the triennial review would likely be published after Easter. Given a further couple of months of further consultation, a statutory instrument would then be passed by parliament before the autumn.

Totally Gaming says: The mood music that Donoughue speaks about would certainly appear to be funereal right now as far as the UK bookmakers are concerned. A maximum stake of £10 would effectively bring an end to the presence of electronic roulette on the high street as it makes the game unattractive to punters. Life for the high-street firms will almost certainly be getting tougher this year and the effects of that are as yet unfathomed, but one presumed result will be a greater shift to online.

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