Government Cuts FOBT Stake

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A fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) | Getty

The British government has cut the maximum stake players can make at a fixed odds betting terminal to £2 from £100, citing the need to “reduce the risk of gambling-related harm.” A statement from the government read that, after consultation with the public and the industry, it wanted to “reduce the potential for large losses on FOBT machines and the risk of harm to both the player and wider communities.”

“Problem gambling can devastate individuals’ lives, families and communities,” said Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch. “It is right that we take decisive action now to ensure a responsible gambling industry that protects the most vulnerable in our society. By reducing FOBT stakes to £2 we can help stop extreme losses by those who can least afford it.”

“While we want a healthy gambling industry that contributes to the economy, we also need one that does all it can to protect players. We are increasing protections around online gambling, doing more on research, education and treatment of problem gambling and ensuring tighter rules around gambling advertising. We will work with the industry on the impact of these changes and are confident that this innovative sector will step up and help achieve this balance.”

FOBTs are a common fixture in betting shops, and with a high number of those shops expected to close as a result of the decision, there will undoubtedly be an impact on racing’s revenue-due to the revenue racing makes selling pictures to the shops–when the measure is eventually implemented after a transition period. DCMS Secretary of State Matt Hancock told Radio 4 the government is “working with the British Horseracing Authority on a package of measures to mitigate the impact on horseracing,” adding that, “horseracing should not be financed on the back of this misery.”

The British Horseracing Authority said in a statement it “welcomes” the decision, and that Hancock says he has asked his officials to work with the BHA to look at how a “levy on global racing bets placed in Britain” could work.

“British racing has a strong social conscience and we support measures announced by the government today to reduce the harm caused by problem gambling,” said BHA Chief Executive Nick Rust. “We are also an industry that generates significant employment, provides education and training and funds charitable work, particularly in rural areas. Throughout this consultation process, we have aimed to protect these valuable social contributions from any potential adverse impacts from wider policy changes. We are pleased that government has acknowledged the reasonable arguments we have made in the consultation process that jobs and revenues in the racing industry should not be adversely affected by changes to wider gambling policy.”

“It is too early to say what the financial impact for racing will be. Our estimates before today’s decision ranged from £40 to £60 million per year, once the impact of the changes has filtered through into racing. These estimates did not take into account the Secretary of State’s suggestion that the levy could be extended to bets on global racing which could partially offset any reduction. We are also encouraged by the Secretary of State’s reference to a period of transition which will allow time for racing and betting to adjust.”

“British racing shares a unique interdependency with the betting industry and we recognise that this decision will affect jobs in the betting industry, with which we work closely in partnership. We want betting on horseracing–on the High Street, at racecourses and online–to continue to be accepted as legitimate and socially responsible. Recreational betting has been a part of racing for centuries and is an accepted entertainment pursuit during a day at the races or on the High Street.”

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