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NEWS 19 March 2018

The UKGC weighs in on FOBT outcome

By Caroline Watson

The UK Gambling Commission has given the UK Government its blessing to cut stakes on the “crack cocaine of gambling”, fixed odds betting terminals, to £2.

Furthermore, despite campaigners’ concerns about the risks of casino-style games including roulette offered on FOBTs, by far the most popular category, the commission said stakes for these should be cut to £30 or below.

Bookmakers around the UK have been hotly anticipating the results of Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and now the Gambling Commissions influential recommendation has the potential to have a prominent negative impact.

The popular betting machines have been under an extreme amount of scrutiny over the past year, as they currently allow players to bet £100 every 20 seconds at the terminals, potentially allowing a punter to spend £18,000 an hour.

In a letter to the Secretary of State, the Gambling Commission stated: “At the heart of our advice is an aim to reduce the risks that consumers, especially those that are vulnerable, face from gambling. We think that action – from government, the Gambling Commission and operators – is needed to achieve that aim.”

“While the package which we are recommending includes a stake cut for Category B2 gaming machines, our advice is clear that any serious attempt to reduce the risk of harm must not rely solely on a change to the stake limit for one product, which only 1.5% of the population plays each month. The package should include, for example, action to improve the tools available to customers to help them to manage their gambling.”

A spokesperson for Fairer Gambling, which has been campaigning for a blanket reduction in all B2 stakes to £2, said: “The Gambling Commission is giving the government free rein to determine an appropriate stake. We are confident that when the evidence has been reviewed, £2 a spin will be considered the most appropriate level.”

However, the Commission has received backlash after announcing its guidance, with Carolyn Harris MP describing it as “outrageous” that the watchdog was not “brave enough” to adopt the £2 limit, and said the machines “blight” lives.

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