Research suggests stake cut would be ineffective

Research suggests stake cut would be ineffective

Thursday, December 8, 2016
Expert says £2 stake level reduction won't work in isolation

Carolyn Harris MP has called for stakes on B2 Gaming machines to be cut from £100 to £2, although research launched today suggests such a move will ‘prove ineffective’ in restricting gambling harm.

Speaking today at the GambleAware conference, Harris revealed that the The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on FOBTs that she chairs has submitted a report to the Department of Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) saying stakes be reduced on a ‘precautionary’ basis until companies operating them are able to prove they do not cause harm to users, their families and communities.

Harris said: “The group sees a strong case for the stake being set at #2. This call is supported by many Members of Parliament from all political parties and in both Houses of Parliament, it is also supported by a significant majority of the public.

“At the very least, the stake should be reduced on a FOBT on a precautionary basis. The precautionary principle should be applied until sufficient evidence is presented to the government that the high stakes on these machines do not cause harm rather than the onus being to prove that they do cause harm.”

However new research, funded by GambleAware, suggests policy makers need to look beyond stake reductions to minimise harm. Researchers from Sophro took a holistic approach when analysing game characteristics within electronic gaming machines including speed of play, free spins, return to player, payment methods as well as stakes and prizes.

The report suggests a number of potential options to consider for mitigating risks associated with ‘remote loading’, including but not limited to:

•        Removing the option to use debit cards in remote loading altogether;

•        Restricting the number of times debit cards can be used;

•        Placing a daily limit on the amount that can be withdrawn using debit cards;

•        Exploring options to permit customers to block voluntarily gambling-related payments using relevant merchant category codes associated with debit card transactions; and,

•        A general requirement that operators avoid making taking money out harder than putting money in.

•        Restrictions on making fast games, like gaming machines, any faster through the use of ‘turbo mode’ for example.

Speaking at the GambleAware conference, lead researcher at Sophro Dr Jonathan Parke said: “There is growing evidence that access to additional funds in a gambling venue is a significant risk factor for problem gambling. This may be because it facilitates the decision to continue spending more than planned. Stopping players from spending more than they can afford is important. However, restricting stake size while failing to consider the other cost determinants, like game speed and volatility, will likely prove ineffective.

“We identified a number of areas for policy makers to consider beyond stakes and prize restrictions, as well as the need to address to evidence gap that will pave the way towards a better understanding of product-based harm-minimisation.”

Totally Gaming says: Harris’ calls for FOBTs to have a precautionary £2 stake until the industry can prove the gaming machines are safe is an odd argument given that the product has been operating in the UK since 2001 and there has been no significant change in problem gambling rates during that time. It also seems a punitive measure rather than a thoughtful approach in reducing gambling harm, if the report from Sophro is anything to go by.

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