Posted May 31, 2014 by John Baintree in News

New Laws To Combat Gambling Machines


Finally, after what seems like years of increasingly bitter campaigning from some sources, the government in Westminster have leapt into action against Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). Dubbed the crack cocaine of the gambling world these machines have been loved by the bookies who are deploying them across their increasing numbers of betting shops.

Measures to curb the spread of problem gambling appeared set to centre around a change in the maximum bet size. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport recently reported that they had found that only 2.5 percent of bets placed on FOBTs were at the current maximum of £100. It is thought that the government will be setting a new upper limit between £50 and £100 but the junior partners in the coalition, the LibDems are rumoured to prefer seeing closer parity with arcade machines and casinos which would mean pegging upper limits to somewhere between £5 and £16.

With machines of this type generating between £1.3bn and £1.5bn annually the stakes, as they say, really couldn’t be much higher for the betting shop operators.

Imagine then, everyone’s surprise when the government announced the first of what could be several salvos aimed at these machines. The salvo introduced a completely different kind of measure. New rules to be introduced will see a ceiling on the amount of cash that can be inserted into a machine at any one time. Punters will also have to inform staff if they wish to bet more than £50 at any one time. Gamblers are also to be offered online accounts as a way round these tight measures, the idea being that through an online account, a gambler can track and monitor his or her level of spending.

Not surprisingly, the government is coming in for some significant criticism that it has avoided dealing with the issue and that it is pandering to the betting companies’ bottom lines rather than working to prevent problem gambling. A recent poll by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling found there was a lot of support for curbing the amount that can be bet. 73 percent surveyed agreed with the idea with a massive 62 percent agreeing with the idea of placing a £2 ceiling on this type of bet.

The government seems to believe that intervention by workers in the bookies will be all that is needed to protect players from problem gambling. It looks as though this subject is still not dealt with properly. How much more misery caused by problem gambling is necessary before something actually gets done.