In hopes of helping to stamp out problem gambling, the government of the United Kingdom has reportedly announced that it is planning to reduce the maximum single stake for the nation’s over 34,000 fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 ($134.77) down to a more modest £2 ($2.69).
According to a report from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), FOBTs were first introduced to the United Kingdom’s around 8,780 land-based sportsbetting shops in 2001 and allow players to place a wager every 20 seconds on a range of virtual fixed-odds games such as roulette and bingo.
The BBC reported that the maximum stake reduction, which is expected to be implemented over the course of the next twelve months, followed an extensive government review into the machines that is said to have discovered consistently high rates of problem gambling as well as ‘a high proportion of those seeking treatment for gambling addiction’ among FOBTs players.
Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society in the government of Prime Minister Theresa May, reportedly declared that the stake reduction would ‘reduce harm for the most vulnerable’ and ‘substantially’ help to protect players at risk of developing an addiction to gambling.
“We recognize the potential impact of this change for betting shops, which depend on FOBT revenues, but also that this is an industry that is innovative and able to adapt to changes,” Crouch reportedly told the BBC.
However, the BBC reported that domestic gambling giant William Hill warned that the ‘unprecedented’ move could see up to 900 of its shops become loss-making propositions and lead to its annual retail revenues dropping by as much as £100 million ($134.77 million).
“The government has handed us a tough challenge today and it will take some time for the full impact to be understood,” Philip Bowcock, Chief Executive Officer for London-listed William Hill, reportedly told the broadcaster.
Similarly, GVC Holdings, which is responsible for the Ladbrokes chain of domestic bookmakers, is said to have proclaimed that the decrease may cause its full-year takings to decline by around £160 million ($215.89 million) while the Managing Director for local sportsbetting operator Betfred, Mark Stebbings, reportedly detailed that the government had ‘played politics with people’s jobs’ because the reduction was ‘clearly not evidence-based but a political decision’.
“This decision will result in unintended consequences including direct and indirect job losses, empty shops on the High Street and a massive funding hit for the horseracing industry,” Stebbings reportedly told the BBC.
But, Peter Jackson, Chief Executive Officer for Paddy Power Betfair, reportedly welcomed the reduction and explained that the Dublin-headquartered firm has long been worried about the impact FOBTs were having on the industry’s reputation.