UK newspaper claims casino games on FOBTs will be scrapped

News on 25 Mar 2018

The Sunday People newspaper in the UK published a scare article over the weekend, claiming that an unidentified Whitehall source had intimated that the UK government will soon impose a GBP 2 maximum betting limit on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) despite Gambling Commission recommendations for a reduction to GBP 30 “or less” (see previous reports).

The newspaper, which has campaigned hard against FOBTs and is claiming a victory, reports that reducing the stake to its lowest limit across the 35,000 machines in operation would “defeat the object of roulette-style games.” The machines could then be stripped of the casino games – but would still offer less addictive slot machine-style bets.

The unidentified source is quoted as saying: “That’s the point of a GBP 2 stake. But it’s not the message we want to put out publicly.”

The Sunday People “understands” ministers will reject the Gambling Commission recommendation and “go for” the GBP 2 stake option.

“The only obstacle to that has been Chancellor Philip Hammond’s fear it would dent his GBP 500 million-a-year tax take in 25 per cent machine gaming duty,” the article continues. “But when asked by the Sunday People if Mr Hammond was still opposing a GBP 2 stake, a source close to the Chancellor replied: “Nope.”

The report also notes that in a House of Lords debate on Friday, government spokeswoman Baroness Chisholm said: “FOBT stakes will be cut. I’m not aware the Chancellor has suggested we cannot make cuts to FOBTs because of revenue.”

The unconfirmed (as we went to press Sunday morning) report ends by noting that the stake cuts and removal of high stakes games will effectively turn B2 FOBTs into GBP 2 slot machines. It quotes bookmaker estimates that the Treasury will lose GBP 250 million a year in lost tax and put at risk up to 20,000 jobs.

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