Posted February 16, 2014 by John Baintree in News

Fixed Odd Betting Terminals Row

FOBT Campaign
FOBT Campaign

As the prevalence of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTS) continues apace, the storm clouds for this type of gambling seem to be gathering. Indeed there seems to some evidence that the knives are out for the gambling industry in general.

In  December 2013,Ed Milliband made a policy announcement that is still having ramifications today. He announced that a future Labour government would empower local councils to control the proliferation of FOBTS, even giving them the power to ban them completely. Launching the new policy initiative Millband said that old style bookies were being turned into mini casinos across the country and that the focus for the spread was always in poorer areas.

Unsurprisingly, the coalition ranks pulled together to create a unanimous front in a Commons vote on a Labour motion calling for local authorities to be provided with these powers. The vote was defeated by a 314 to 232 majority leaving the labour party with the single path of adding the policy to next year’s General Election manifesto, or was it?

None other than the Prime Minister had already indicated his concerns about the spread of FOBTS and how he welcomed the debate initiated by the Opposition. During the debate, Culture Minister Helen Grant said that the Government was looking for detailed research and was waiting for the findings of an investigation into the actual impact that FOTBS have on players.

So it seems the industry is coming under closer inspection. Currently things seem to be somewhat stymied as requests made by Ministers for access to FOTB terminals for research purposes have been turned down by the betting industry.

In what could be considered a sign of the mood of public opinion, Ralph Topping, CEO of William Hill recently closed his Twitter account following a bruising encounter with the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. The sustained debate via the Social Media saw Topping referring to hard won freedoms of choice (about gambling) , the death of his Uncle in WW2 fighting for that freedom and accusations of anti-gambling campaigners being “shifty”. At the end of the heated debate Topping took his Twitter account private. He who lives by the Twitter sword appears to die by it as well!

With such measurable public opinion being expressed in a relatively short space of time there does seem to be a message for the gambling companies and that message is underlined by the all-important stock price. Coincidentally, after David Cameron waded into the debate, indicating his concerns about FOTBS more than £400 million was wiped of the value of gambling organisations on the stock market.