UK Government Rejects FOBT Limits

Calls from councils throughout England and Wales were unheeded by the UK government, which has rejected a plan that would reduce maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting machines from £100 to £2.

93 councils made the plea

A proposal by 93 councils in the United Kingdom to reduce betting machine limits has been rejected by the government. The councils, located across England and Wales, had asked that the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals be decreased from £100 (US$153) to £2, and new licensing laws established to prevent new betting shops in certain areas of the UK.

According to the website, the proposal was presented under a framework that enables local councils to request changes in the law that would promote the “sustainability of local communities.”

FOBTs have been famously tagged as “the crack cocaine of betting” because gamblers can lose £100 in a single bet; Newham Council has said it is possible to bet up to £18,000 in an hour on the machines, which generate more revenue in the UK than all other forms of gaming combined.

In rejecting the appeal, the government said it has already strengthened its oversight of FOBTs. Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales said that response was an “insult” to councils, and added that betting shops have “taken over” high streets across the UK.

“We will challenge this decision, because without a reduction in stakes, FOBTs will continue to blight the nation’s high streets,” the mayor said. “Current planning and gambling laws are failing to protect our towns and high streets.”

According to figures from the UK Gambling Commission, between October 2013 and September 2014, £1.6 billion (US$2.5 billion) was gambled on the machines, up from £1.3 billion in 2010-11.

The BBC reports that new rules will require anyone wanting to place a £50 stake on the machines to “interact with staff or set up an account with a bookmaker.” That change, said the government, will allow staff to identify problem gamblers.

It’s too late for former compulsive gambler Simon Perfitt, who told the BBC he lost his job and home over 10 years gambling on the machines. “When FOBTs first came out, you saw quite a few people winning,” he said. “It probably wouldn’t have been so attractive if there were lower stakes.”