The maximum stake that someone can gamble on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) is to be cut from £100 to £2, the government has announced. The move is intended to ‘reduce the risk of gambling-related harm’.
MPs and campaigners have been calling for a reduction in the maximum permitted stake for years (DDN, September 2014, page 6), with the controversial terminals frequently referred to as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’. The move relates to ‘category B2’ FOBT machines, which are mainly located in betting shops, and follows a consultation with the public and the gambling industry.
It is estimated that FOBTs account for around half of betting shop takings (DDN, September 2014, page 6) and the Association of British Bookmakers has said that it expects more than 4,000 shops to close, with the loss of 21,000 jobs. Digital, culture, media and sport secretary Matt Hancock, however, said the terminals were a ‘social blight’ that preyed on the vulnerable.
Public Health England will also carry out a review of the evidence around the public health harms of gambling, the government has announced, while the Gambling Commission is set to introduce stronger age verification rules for online betting.
‘Problem gambling can devastate individuals’ lives, families and communities,’ said sports minister 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. 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.’