Wednesday January 16, 2013 : FOBT STAKES AND PRIZES COULD CHANGE IN THE UK
UK government in consultation process; wants to base decisions on fact and not supposition
Coming hot on the heels of the political furore in the UK triggered by the recent Campaign for Fairer Gambling criticism of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals , the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has announced a comprehensive consultation and review program on gambling in the UK.
Part of that review will examine the issue of whether FOBTs in high street betting shops constitute a threat to potential problem gamblers, but the government is insisting that stakes and prizes remain unchanged until there is firm evidence of a link.
Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said Tuesday: "The Government's response balances the need to acknowledge gambling's contribution to the economy with an explicit recognition of the need to protect players, particularly at the higher-end stakes."
"We recognise the current concerns about the impact of such machines, are undertaking an evidence-based review and will take action if necessary."
Responding to a parliamentary select committee report, the government rejected a recommendation to increase the number of machines per shop currently allowed under the regulations. Betting companies will continue to be limited to a maximum of four per shop.
Anti-gambling campaigners claim that bookmakers get around the rule by opening clusters of shops in less affluent areas where rents are low.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling wants maximum stakes cut heavily to 2 pounds and the gaps between each spin lengthened.
The consultative process, in which interested parties must contribute in writing before April 9 2013, is already well under way and has involved meetings and a communications campaign as part of government's triennial review of the industry.
The government has suggested there are a number of options that range from maintaining the status quo on stake and prize levels for various categories of machine/establishments to changes that could up both wager levels and prizes.
These are covered extensively in links from: http://www.culture.gov.uk/consultations/9656.aspx.
Government spokesmen said that the increase in the maximum stake “….will ultimately depend on how far the industry is willing to commit to trialling other sorts of harm mitigation measures”.
The political row over FOBTs continued this week with the Labour Party's shadow minister for Culture, Clive Efford, demanding that local communities be given more say in the licensing of new betting shops in their areas.
He also suggested that operators be compelled to instal software on FOBTs which remind players via pop-ups of how long they have been playing and how much they have staked.
In October 2011 the UK government reintroduced a triennial review system on gambling to consider the level of monetary limits on stakes and prizes applied to gaming machines. The review forms the foundation of the current consultation and seeks to evolve a more coherent and systematic approach to the regulation of stakes and prizes.
The first review under the new system has been completed and the government is now consulting on a package of measures changing the maximum stake and prize limits for a range of gaming machines situated in arcades, betting shops, bingo premises, casinos and pubs and clubs in Britain. An impact assessment is also being published, analysing the associated costs and benefits.
Government spokesmen stressed that the goal is to ensure the right level of regulation is in place to allow businesses to grow while at the same time maintaining public protection. It will also assess over the longer term whether there are more efficient and effective ways of regulating stake and prize limits to achieve the same aims.
In related news, the new chief of the UK Gambling Commission, Sir Philip Graf, welcomed the review and consultative process, commenting:
“One of the clear messages to take away from the exercise is that building public confidence is the key to unlocking the opportunities for innovation and growth that the industry seeks. To do so the industry needs to take full ownership of the licensing objectives and embed them in the DNA of the business.
"Gambling operators must do more to publicly demonstrate their commitment to keeping gambling fair and safe."