Interview: UK measures failing to halt FOBT growth, campaign group warns

Interview: UK measures failing to halt FOBT growth, campaign group warns

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 Totally Gaming

Financial results released last week by Ladbrokes and William Hill have proved that the implementation of a £50 threshold on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) in the UK has failed to halt the growth of the controversial gambling machines, Adrian Parkinson, a spokesman and consultant for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, has told TotallyGaming.com.

Last April, the UK government introduced new rules to ensure that gamblers have to tell staff or open an online account if they want to bet more than £50 of their own money at a time.

However, following the publication last week of the financial results of UK bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes for 2014, Parkinson has insisted that there is evidence that the existing measures are not working.

“FOBTs now account for two thirds of all UK gaming machine revenue and as these annual reports show, that growth continues,” Parkinson told TotallyGaming.com.

“Despite the Department for Culture, Media and Sport predicting a 1.4-per-cent decline in FOBT revenue as a consequence of the £50 threshold being introduced in April, Ladbrokes are still predicting growth of circa five per cent.

“The industry now needs to drive more growth to recoup the huge costs they have incurred from the Code of Conduct, Senet Group and lobbying to defend FOBTs.”

William Hill announced last week that gaming machine net revenue had grown by six per cent in 2014, while Ladbrokes noted that it made £937 in gross win per machine per week and £3,722 per shop per week.

William Hill and Ladbrokes both closed dozens of shops in 2014, but the latter said that its “gross win per shop exceeds or achieves five-year average in last three quarters driven by machine growth”.

In presenting its results, William Hill said that it had taken “an active and leading role in improving responsible gambling measures in 2014” while Ladbrokes said it “demonstrated [our] commitment to social responsibility by establishing a committee of the PLC board to set targets in social responsibility and to link these targets to executive remuneration.”

Ladbrokes also highlighted that “non-B2” now makes up 38 per cent of its machine win in a section of its results entitled ‘New machine offer and enhanced social responsibility standards’.  

However, Parkinson warned that the Association of British Bookmakers’ Code of Conduct and the establishment of the Senet Group, plus other initiatives, are far less effective than a maximum stake of £2 per spin.

“We have been expressing concern about the introduction of ‘hybrid games’ which introduce players to £2 slot style games, but then entice the player into higher staking features and content, thanks to the B2/B3 dual functionality of FOBTs,” he added.

“Responsible gaming standards have certainly not been improved by the bookmaking sector. We've seen multiple joint initiatives from across the gambling sector that have all fallen apart culminating in the bookmakers going their own way with the Senet Group.

“The only analysis of the effectiveness of the measures in the Code of Conduct has already shown how little it has achieved with just 0.04 per cent of all sessions using one of the voluntary time or spend controls. 

“There is one single responsible gaming measure that the bookmakers don't want to talk about or promote. It is the only effective measure, it is what the government says is safe in all other gambling venues located on the high street and that is stake reduction to £2 per spin.”

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