UK Govt slashes FOBT stakes by 98%

By Caroline Watson

The UK Government has introduced rules that will reduce the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2.

The move follows repeated calls from campaigners to protect vulnerable gamblers from the terminals that have been described as highly addictive and dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.

High street betting shops opposed such significant reductions in the maximum stake, claiming that thousands of jobs would be lost. William Hill said that half of its retail revenues came from FOBTs and that 900 of its shops could make losses and face closure as a result of the rule change.

However, following the announcement, other UK bookmakers have accepted the move and said they were pleased that the uncertainty was finally over.

GVC Holdings, which owns Ladbrokes, said it expects profits to be cut by about £160m (US$215m) in the first year that the new limit is in force.

“Although we are ultimately disappointed with the outcome of the Triennial Review, it is a decision we accept,” said GVC Holdings CEO Kenneth Alexander.

“The uncertainty has weighed heavy on the industry and the many thousands of people who work within it. Our focus now is to work with Government to build a constructive relationship that will ensure a positive future for the sector and the many millions of customers who enjoy our products responsibly. The offer for Ladbrokes Coral Group was structured to address the potential of a £2 max stake outcome and as such the strategic rationale for the acquisition remains unchanged.”

Another major UK high street brand, Paddy Power Betfair, added: “We’ve consistently called for a significant stake cut which would take this issue off the table, so we’re pleased that the Secretary of State and Government has acted so decisively.

“Our industry provides a fun, exciting experience for the vast majority of customers and it makes sense to try and get back to that by removing what had become a toxic issue. Today’s move will have a short-term impact on our business, but we think it’s a really important step towards building a sustainable industry.”

The impact of the announcement was no doubt softened by the news earlier this week regarding US online sports betting, with big-name betting brands already making moves to offset any potential losses with significant gains in the States.



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