Gambling campaigners slam "failed" betting machines report

Gambling campaigners slam "failed" betting machines report

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 Totally Gaming

Pressure group the Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) has told that the UK Gambling Commission and the Government are “culpable” for the “failed” research into gambling machines that was published today by charity Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT).

The study was commissioned in February 2014 by the RGT, following input from the Government, the Gambling Commission, and the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, with the proviso it should ‘build the knowledge base available to identify harmful machine play and to understand what measures might limit harmful play without impacting on those who do not exhibit harmful behaviours’.

The findings of the research, which was carried out by RGT’s Research Committee under a panel of independent experts, have been provided to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Gambling Commission to, according to the RGT, ‘inform policy decisions they may wish to make with regard to these machines.

However, CFG believes the study has completely missed its target by failing to shed light on the addictive nature of the highly controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). FOBTs have been described as the “crack cocaine of gambling” by critics, with 93 English local councils last week launching a bid to have their maximum stakes reduced from £100 to £2.

“Despite early assurance that this research would deliver the “whole truth” about FOBTs, it quite simply hasn’t and that is because they have asked completely the wrong questions,” CFG spokesman Adrian Parkinson, formerly a senior manager with a national bookmaker, told

“The research has failed to answer the core question about the addictive nature of FOBTs and in particular the impact of high-stake, high-speed roulette content.

“Politicians looking at this research will come away with a little more knowledge and insight into FOBTs but nothing that answers the burning question - are we right to allow £100 gaming machines on the high street? Councillors across the country who see the problems created by FOBTs in their communities don’t need any research to answer that question.”

He added: “This research was set up to learn more about problem gamblers playing machines rather than the addictive nature of FOBTs themselves.

“The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, Gambling Commission and the Government all had influence in setting these parameters - so they are all are culpable.”

The findings of the study, which has cost more than £1 million in total and was overseen by the Machine Research Oversight Panel (MROP) and chaired by Professor Alex Blaszczynski (University of Sydney), have been published in the form of seven reports.

The main finding, according to Neil Goulden, chairman of the RGT, is that it is possible to distinguish between problem and non-problem gambling behaviour.

Other highlights of the report included that average stake per bet was £5.13 while stake size varied by time of day, doubling after 10pm in the small number of shops open at that time. Stake size was also lower in more deprived areas.

Players ended up with an overall loss in 70-80 per cent of sessions, losing on average £7 with sessions lasting 11 minutes on average.

Only three per cent of sessions had betting at the maximum £100 stake with the research finding that higher stakes impacted decision-making quality for both winning and losing customers, although impaired decision-making also occurred at lower stakes.

Half of those who previously gambled on machines now no longer do so, while those with lower incomes were more likely to start to play machines in a bookmakers than those with higher incomes.

Goulden said: “This research has huge potential to inform the industry's approach to minimising gambling-related harm and we strongly urge the industry to make every effort to improve how problem behaviour is more effectively monitored and managed in the future.”

Professor Blaszczynski also defended the work of the academics that have conducted the study. He said: “It is important to highlight the substantive and world-leading contribution to our understanding of problem gambling made by this research. 

“This programme represents the first collaborative endeavour between multiple industry operators and independent researchers. It is of outstanding significance.”

However, there was criticism of the report from Clive Efford, Labour's shadow minister for sport.

He said: “The findings of this study leave many questions unanswered and more research is required if we are to understand the patterns of behaviour of people who have gambling problems.

“It is disappointing this research cannot tell us how levels of stakes and prizes impact on problem gamblers. This was promised by the Prime Minister and it is hugely embarrassing for him that it does not provide the information.”


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