BRIT MPS SEEK F.O.B.T. CHANGES
But are their recommendations realistic…and what are the probable consequences?
The controversial issue of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in retail betting shops is back in the press today (Thursday) thanks to an unofficial (ie not a Select Committee) group of politicians led by Labour MP Carolyn Harris which published an interim report on their recommendations regarding the machines.
The group, titled FOBT All-Party Parliamentary Group plans to release its full report early in the new year, but for now has claimed that changes to FOBT regulations could help in reducing "associated crime" and problem gambling.
The recommendations specifically suggest that the maximum bet on the machines should be reduced from GBP 100 to just GBP 2, and that the UK government should consider slowing the speed of spins on the machines to reduce the amount wagered in a session.
Shares in gambling groups like William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral, which generate healthy profits from FOBTs, declined around 7 percent on the publication of the recommendations, but a spokesman for William Hill pointed out that the small group of MPs was not an official Select Committee appointed by parliament; had preconceived negative perspectives on FOBTs before their investigations began, and had little credibility in terms of independence.
Industry observers commented that the government had already started work on a second review of FOBTs, whilst Berenberg analyst Roberta Ciaccia said that the GBP 2 stake limit had been suggested before but was not practical. Commenting that the average wager per FOBT session was in the region of GBP 10 to GBP 15, she said that reducing staking limits below that benchmark has the potential to put High Street betting shops out of business with the consequent risk of massive losses in tax receipts for government and tens of thousands of jobs.