Sunday February 23,2014 : BRITAIN'S BOOKIES FIGHT BACK ON F.O.B.T.s
New restrictive measures for users.
The chief executives of five of the UK's biggest betting groups fronted for the industry over the weekend in presenting new measures to ameliorate the political and media fall-out over the allegedly predatory use of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in High Street retail betting shops.
In an open letter, the bosses of Gala Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, William Hill and Betfred detailed measures being introduced this week to ensure that punters who use FOBTs do so “responsibly”.
The CEOs claim that objective facts on FOBTs and problem gambling are being obscured by the increasingly emotional and media-fuelled public debate.
They make the following factual points:
* The "overwhelming majority" of FOBT users gamble responsibly, and problem gambling levels in the UK are low by international standards…and these have not grown since FOBTs and for that matter online gambling were introduced.
* That said, the betting companies are not complacent and have taken extensive player protection measures. These include enforced breaks and automatic on-screen player alerts on money deposited and time spent, simultaneously relayed to shop staff monitoring screens.
* The bookmakers' trade body, the Association of British Bookmakers, has drawn up a code for responsible gambling and will enforce measures on FOBTs this week. The Association acknowledges concerns around the machines, which account for about half of bookies’ profits. The code allows players to set a maximum amount they are prepared to lose during a single session.
* Betting companies have trained nearly 40,000 staff to look out for signs of problem gambling behaviour and how best to approach customers who might need help.
* The ABB code is just a first step, to be followed by an independent review on FOBTs that is being carried out by the Responsible Gambling Trust and will be published in October.
* Whilst the last thing that betting companies want to see are problem gamblers, they contend that restrictions on FOBTs must be based on solid evidence.
William Hill plc's always voluble CEO Ralph Topping said in a separate interview with the Sunday Telegraph that restrictions that were too heavy ran the risk of creating unintended and negative consequences for Britain's greyhound and horse racing industries, which are supported by levies from bookmakers.
“What funds greyhound racing and horse racing?", Topping asked rhetorically, answering: "Retail betting."
"If you hit that you might as well get the stun guns ready and start shooting the horse population and the greyhound population, because horse racing isn’t going to survive in its current form.”