UK media reports this morning speculate that today (March 19) will be the day that the UK Gambling Commission recommends that maximum stakes permissible on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in betting shops be reduced to GBP 30 or less…a massive cut from the present GBP 100, but significantly higher than action group and political demands for just GBP 2.
The Times newspaper reports that a move away from a GBP 2 maximum stake on FOBTs, would protect most of the nearly GBP 500 million of tax revenue that the machines raise each year. According to the Government’s own estimates, a GBP 2 cap could lead to a GBP 5.5 billion loss in tax revenues over the next 10 years.
Bookmakers have previously warned that a GBP 2 maximum stake would result in hundreds of betting shop closures and thousands of job losses, as well as a hit to the horse racing industry’s finances of GBP 290 million in lost media rights and levy by 2020.
The watchdog’s recommendation is important to the final outcome of the much-delayed government triennial review launched in October 2016, which will include the decision on FOBT stakes.
Reports indicate that the Commission will recommend tougher restrictions to temper the more reasonable GBP 30 proposed; these include a ban on allowing FOBT players to switch quickly between betting on high-stake and low-stake games every 20 seconds, and requirements for operators to track customers’ playing patterns on FOBTs.
The Commission reportedly also wants the government to improve player protections on FOBTs, including allowing customers to set time and loss limits, while they will also recommend that slots games, which account for one in every 200 bets on FOBTs, will be reduced to a maximum stake of GBP 2.
Meanwhile, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, Labour MP Carolyn Harris and the SNP’s Ronnie Cowan have written to UK Chancellor Philip Hammond saying the case for reducing the maximum bet was “overwhelming”.
The Gambling Commission’s recommendation will be significant because as the Government’s statutory adviser, ministers will be expected to act on its guidance.