New RGT FOBT data: Key points

By David Cook
The Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) recently published three new reports that have uncovered new data on player behaviour on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in UK LBOs. Here are some highlights from those reports and a breakdown of each one:

People who play machines in bookmakers

Background - This was based on a 2014 survey of 4001 people who gambled on B2 gaming machines in bookmakers that held a loyalty card for William Hill, Ladbrokes or Paddy Power. The data was collated by NatCen Social Research and covered the period from September 2013 to June 2014.

• A total of 16% of loyalty-card holders placed a maximum stake of £100 on B2 machines, while 2% of holders staked £100 in 5% or more of B2 machine bets.

• Around 65-70% of B2 machine losses were attributable to 20% of people

• Over 30% of players from a non-white ethnic group had placed a maximum stake bet

• Problem gamblers were more likely to be unemployed than in paid employment. A total of 5% of loyalty-card holders that were unemployed had placed a £100 bet in 5% or more of their bets.

• Those on lower incomes were more likely to be problem gamblers

Examining the effect of proximity and concentration of B2 machines to gambling play

Background - The study aimed to shed light on the locations of B2 machines. This was also from a base of 4,001 loyalty-card holders with three bookmakers and the survey fieldwork was carried out between May 2014 and August 2014.

Key findings

• The data showed that more FOBTs that were within a 400m distance of a player’s home, the higher the percentage of players were gamblers with a PGSI [Problem Gambling Severity Index] score of one or more. A player with a PGSI score of zero is considered a non-problem gambler, players scoring 1-2 were low-risk gamblers, moderate risk gamblers scored 3-7 and problem gamblers scored eight or more.

• In areas where there were no LBOs within 400m of a player’s home, 70.3% of players were PGSI players with a score of one or more, and this ascended to 70.9% of players for one LBO, to 71.3% for two LBOs, 80.6% for three LBOs and 82.5% for four or more LBOs.

• For players with PGSI scores of four or more, there were an average of 5.87 LBOs within 400m of their home. This was higher than any other PGSI band.

• When taking into account players that lived within a 200m distance of LBOs, the highest-scoring band was PGSI 3-7 players with 30.2%. For players living within 400m of an LBO, the highest-scoring band was PGSI 8 or more players with 28.1%, and for players not living within 400m of an LBO, PGSI 0 players were the highest-scoring band with 29.4%.

• Overall, the mean PGSI score for 200m LBO distances from players homes was 5.51, then 5.42 for 400m and 4.48 for further than that. This would show that regardless of location, the average player is a moderate risk gambler.

• Players living further than 400m from an LBO actually played a higher number of sessions on B2 machines than players within 400m – 229.2 vs 168.9.

• The machine play data was mostly generated from urban areas, with a total of 91.9%, while 8.1% of the data came from players in rural areas

Secondary analysis of machines data

Background - This pulled together some general statistics from the findings and was made from a consortium of NatCen Social Research, Featurespace, Geofutures and RTI International conducted for the RGT's Machines Research Programme in 2014.

Key findings

• The average stake size on B2 gaming machines was £8.17 across a total of 9.2 million bets.

• In contrast, the average stake size on a B3 gaming machine (fruit and slot machines) was £0.68 across 25.7 million bets.

• A total of 10% of all players were responsible for over 52% of all £100 stakes on B2 machines

• In cases where players staked £100, this was not preceded by another £100 stake in the session 5.7% of the time and just 1.1% of £100 stakes were the only maximum stake in the session.

• The average £100 stake player lost £1,857 across 120.7 sessions (£15.39 per session), whereas the average non-£100 player lost £524.56 across 52.2 sessions (£10.05 per session). In summary, £100 stake players are losing more than non-£100 players on average, but not by an extreme amount.

Gambling Insider verdict

Much like in political elections, data is often unable to solve disputes, in the sense that both sides of the argument will pick out the statistics which best support their views and present them to the audience.

For what it’s worth, however, utmost importance should be placed on the percentage of players that are placing £100, and whether or not you see 16% as a high number. Even if that number is high, is it a problem if people enjoy playing at that level? Furthermore, is an average loss of £15.39 per session for those players, which will build up over time, a high amount? We will leave that up to you to make your own conclusion.

Another thing to be noted is that all this data was put together before April 2015, when regulatory changes were made. Players staking over £50 must now be assisted by staff or to be placed through account play.

Moving forward, we will see what effect, if any, this data could have on a pending triennial review that will look into the matter. The results of such a review would have to be made clear before the UK Gambling Commission clarifies its stance on the matter.

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