Bookmakers welcome government rejection of new FOBT cap

Bookmakers welcome government rejection of new FOBT cap

Friday, July 17, 2015
Local authorities failed to force a reduction in maximum stakes

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) has welcomed the UK government’s decision not to lower the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The Government gave its decision on Thursday in response to an appeal made by 93 councils, under the terms of the 2007 Sustainable Communities Act (SCA), who wanted to see a £2 ($3.13) cap on the B2 machines, which generated estimated revenues of £7.8bn (€10.6bn/$11.9bn) in the UK in 2014.

However, the government said that existing controls and the £50 limit introduced earlier this year were sufficient, with a spokesman for the ABB - whose members include William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power - telling TotallyGaming.com that the industry is taking its responsibilities seriously.

“We welcome the decision and we have been working closely with the government and the Gambling Commission on a series of responsible gambling initiatives,” the spokesman said. “In terms of gaming machines, under the ABB Code for Responsible Gambling, all players must now choose whether to set a limit or not on the amount of time they play for, or what they spend.

“The evidence shows 125,000 players are setting a limit and sticking to it. Alongside that, the government changed the law earlier in the year so you can only stake up to £50 on a machine – if you wish to bet an amount higher than that, then you need to go to the counter or have an account.

“The gaming machines themselves now have much more prominent responsible gambling messages and as an industry we have held two Gamble Aware Weeks this year, during which all customers were encouraged to set limits.

“We already work successfully with the Local Government Association (LGA), who represent over 400 Councils, in partnership, to address issues of concern and come up with solutions.”

The decision was criticised by opponents, with MP and London Mayoral hopeful David Lammy posting a message on Twitter saying: “In rejecting a lower FOBT stake the government has taken the side of big bookmakers over communities and vulnerable gamblers. The fight goes on.”

It is believed that opponents will appeal the decision against the machines, with Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, the local authority that led the challenge, saying: “The government’s decision is an insult to the 93 councils who raised concerns over these high-stake gaming machines.

“Betting shops, spurred on by these FOBTs, have taken over our high streets and current planning and gambling laws are failing to protect our towns and high streets.

“Newham Council has explored every avenue to stop the spread of betting shops. We will challenge this decision, because without a reduction in stakes, FOBTs will continue to blight the nation’s high streets.”

In revealing the decision, a government spokesman said: "We do not support Newham Council's proposal as we have already acted by introducing stronger gambling controls to further protect players and promote responsible gambling, in April. This includes putting an end to unsupervised stakes above £50 on FOBTs and giving more powers to local authorities to stop new betting shops opening up in their areas.

“The government will continue to monitor the effectiveness of existing controls and will take further action if necessary.”
 

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