Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) have become the most toxic issue facing the UK gambling community in recent years, with growing public concern making the current position of the majority of betting shops and casinos untenable. This week, the Goliath gambling conglomerate Paddy Power Betfair came out as the first operator in the UK to speak in favour of a governmental move to limit the wagers possible through these machines. It seems likely now – with such a renowned voice behind the move – that the new limits are inevitable.
The Issue With FOBT
In recent years, FOBT have attracted the ire of anti-gambling campaigners, who have identified the common high street betting terminals as one of the leading causes and exacerbating factors in problem gambling in Britain. The concern is that these terminals contain games, which tend to be highly addictive. Combine the high tendency to attract players with the ability to wager up to £100 on a single round of a video casino game, and you get to shaky ground pretty quickly.
There has been a lot of noise from those opposed to gambling or simply wanting to see safer gambling regulations put in place. They suggest that being able to lose £100 in just a few seconds can cause those who suffer from problem gambling to create huge problems for themselves in no time. Though there have been no statistical links made between use of FOBT and increased problem gambling rates, the association is an attractive one to draw.
The Government Proposal
In response to the growing public outcry against FOBT, the government has proposed dropping the wagering limits on these machines from the £100 to a comparatively tiny £2. The hope is that by making such a dramatic change to the way these machines work, they will prevent new players from developing severe gambling problems. Also, the change might also help stop those, who already suffer from compulsive gambling from destroying their lives by wagering away all of their money.
It’s widely accepted that this isn’t going to be an overnight fix to the UK’s problem gambling epidemic, but it’s a small step towards helping those in need and will hopefully go a long way to protecting vulnerable players.
Paddy Power Betfair’s Statement
So, where does Paddy Power Betfair come into all of this? As one of the UK’s biggest betting shop operators, you might think that the company has a vested interest in opposing this proposed new legislation, but in a shock letter to Tracey Crouch, parliamentary minister for sport last week, Paddy Power Betfair CEO Breon Corcoran spoke in favour of the move.
He said: “we now believe that the issue has become so toxic that only a substantial reduction in FOBT stake limits to £10 or less will address societal concerns.” Corcoran made it clear that the company’s stance comes more from a PR concerns about public opinion, rather than for the health of players. Yet, seeing as it amounts to the same outcome, can we really complain about his motivations?
How will this revelation affect the outcome of the proposed legislation? We’re yet to see and whether other betting operators will follow suit and support it is, of course, yet to be seen.