UK FOBT users offered perks to keep them playing

By Tom Lewis
Staff in British betting shops are told to offer gamblers perks and incentives to keep them playing fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), according to a BBC investigation.

A former manager at Coral, referred to as “John”, said staff were instructed to do “absolutely anything” to make FOBT players feel comfortable upon entering, referring to such players as “the gods of the betting shop”.

This has allegedly extended to buying food for customers and altering the shop’s temperature, with the BBC quoting John as saying: “There was a suggestion from the area manager at one time that if we had a customer coming in for their lunch hour, we had to make sure they didn’t waste time trying to get a cheese and ham roll instead of playing the machines.

“You could go out there, buy them a cheese and ham roll and get it ready for them.”

John also said managers would receive a financial reward for reaching their machine profit target.

He added: “I know another firm based their whole wage on how much money they made on machines, so there was every incentive for staff to encourage people.”

Internal emails from Coral’s central operations department, passed to the BBC by a current Coral manager and referring to a new FOBT game called Big Banker, state: “Ensure your team has... identified you key target customers to demonstrate our popular feature game.

“Offer a demo to all of your machine customers to whet their appetite, then encourage them to play with their own money.”

Coral has firmly rejected the allegations levelled in the report, saying: “Recent health surveys show that problem gambling rates have in fact fallen since the introduction of FOBTs and the average Coral customer’s loss per session on a FOBT is around six to nine pounds.”

The operator said it had “strengthened protections for all of its customers, providing help and support for the very small minority that may have issues with their gambling activity".

Malcolm George, of the Association of British Bookmakers, said: “It is absolutely the case that anyone joining and working in a betting shop will receive training about problem gambling.”

FOBTs have been the subject of significant recent controversy, with the Campaign for Fairer Gambling seeking to restrict their content and operation.

The UK government announced a series of player protection measures April 2015, including a requirement for betting shop staff to supervise players betting more than £50 cash at a time.

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