UK gambling regulator backpedals on £2 FOBT stake limit

UK gambling regulator backpedals on £2 FOBT stake limit

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) will no longer back a £2 limit on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) wagering levels. At least, not explicitly.

UK gambling regulator backpedals on £2 FOBT stake limitOn Sunday, The Times reported that the gambling regulator is expected to recommend that UK ministers reject the initial proposal to enforce a £2 maximum stake—a huge drop from the current £100 per spin limit. Instead, the UKGC will endorse a maximum stake of £30 or less, and will also suggest “measures to combat the risk of harm,” according to the report.

The measures include prohibiting FOBT players from switching seamlessly between high-stakes games every 20 seconds and the so-called lower-stakes “quickfire” games; requiring bookmakers to track customer habits to identify problem gambling; and requiring the government to extend FOBT player protections to other machines.

Members of Parliament are expected to act on the UKGC guidance, although they can still opt for a £2 limit but only after taking into account the £500 million of tax revenues that the FOBTs contribute annually. The MPs had also been warned that too-low maximum stakes on FOBTs will result in more than 4,500 betting shops closing down, causing an estimated 21,000 people to be out of jobs by 2020.

The Times report indicate that the UKGC will point out in its recommendation that “there is insufficient evidence to justify” the regulator “recommending a specific figure below £30,” so it has decided to “leave the door open for a £2 maximum.”

Gambling giants like Ladbrokes Coral also warned of possible “severe stake cut” in its sponsorship budget. Ladbrokes spends £8 million yearly on sporting event sponsorships, almost £3.5 million of which dedicated to horse racing. The betting giant also sponsors the Rugby Football League Challenge Cup and the Scottish Professional Football League, in addition to partnerships with snooker and darts.

Bookmaker William Hill has also announced that it’s also considering revising its sponsorship agenda in the event that the legislation on FOBTs is changed, noting that its £1 million horse racing sponsorship may be “at risk” if the FOBT’s maximum stake is set too low.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) also urged the government to rethink its FOBT stake cut, pointing out that a drastic FOBT cut could prove disastrous to racing, whose financial health is largely dependent on the betting industry. BHA executive director Will Lambe earlier told the government’s FOBT consultation that “any measures which severely compromise the sport’s financial stability would have unintended consequences to British racing and the wider rural community.”