The maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals could drop to as little as £2 under a government review. Currently, people can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on the high-speed electronic casino games but proposals could limit that to between £2 and £50.The 12-week government consultation aims to reduce the risk of people suffering large losses and to tighten up advertising rules. Changes would hit UK gambling company revenue, put at £1.8bn last year. A good bet? The fixed-odds controversy
‘I lost £5k in 48 hours on betting machines’
Culture minister Tracey Crouch said current laws on gaming machines – which critics say are the crack cocaine of gambling – were “inappropriate” for protecting people and communities. “It is vital that we strike the right balance between socially responsible growth and protecting the most vulnerable, including children, from gambling-related harm,” she said.There was strong evidence and public concern about high stakes gaming machines on the high street and the government was convinced of a need to act, she added.”We have seen online gambling grow rapidly and we need to protect players in this space, while also making sure those experiencing harm relating to gambling receive the help they need,” she said.As part of the review: The Gambling Commission – the industry’s regulator – will consult on changes to protect online players.
Broadcasters, advertisers, industry and support groups will draw up an advertising campaign to promote responsible gambling, with an annual budget of up to £7m.
New advertising guidelines will be drawn up, to protect problem gamblers, children and young people.
Access by under-18s to gambling content and channels on social media will be restricted.
Gambling companies are being told to step up funding for research, education and treatment. If they don’t, operators may face a levy.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said he was “disappointed” that the government had launched a review when it should be taking action.”These fixed-odds betting terminals are destroying the lives of people who can’t afford to gamble,” he told BBC’s Today programme.”People who are problem gamblers seem to be drawn to these machines. They’re on they’re doorstep. They’re on every estate in Britain. That’s why they’re so dangerous.”He said industry fears that betting shops would shut if the stake was reduced had to be balanced against the harm done.Labour wants a new gambling bill to look at the explosion of digital and online products – to stop children gambling on phones and protect vulnerable people.The party committed to reducing the stake to £2 in its manifesto and is to carry out its own research looking at advertising and addiction, and factors such as football clubs being sponsored by gambling companies.
The government began to look again at gambling in October 2016, when it made a “call for evidence” on the number and location of gaming machines and the measures in place to protect players. Betting machines have long been a fixture in pubs, clubs and cafes but fixed-odds terminals – introduced in casinos and betting shops from 1999 – offered computerised games including roulette and blackjack at the touch of a button. Each machine accepts bets up to a pre-set maximum and pays out according to fixed odds on the simulated outcomes of games.Two categories of games are available, including B3 games with a maximum stake of £2 and a top prize of £500 and the more contentious B2 games, which allow for bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds. Tax law changes in 2001 led to a vast increase in the number of terminals. By 2005, about 20,000 terminals were in use and more than 34,000 are now found across the UK, according to the Gambling Commission.Malcolm George, of the Association of British Bookmakers, said the government shared its wish to identify problem gamblers and get them help. But restricting terminals in betting shops would redirect problem gamblers to other avenues where there were less controls on the amount of gambling, he said. “Just as alcohol policy in this country is not solely determined by alcoholics” he added, there needs to be an environment for the “vast majority who gamble responsibly”.